The Problem With Being Average: A Leaders Dilemma
Many years ago, when I was a young, green private in the Canadian Air Force, I was partnered with a more seasoned corporal to learn how to change a magnetron in the transmitter to the height finder radar. That experience ended up being one of the best learning experiences I have had in my career. Let me explain.
George I will call him: a 40 something, outspoken, rugged, playful, opinionated guy with a bad chewing tobacco habit and teeth to match was going to be my trainer for the day. Normally I enjoyed working with George, but today he seemed different: A little crabby and a lot impatient. The project we were working on would, according to the book, take the better part of the day, and we started late, so we had a lot of catching up to do, and as the token “green” person I was handed all the unglorious menial tasks. I kind of expected it, but still I had hoped to learn something important that would help me in the future.
Then as we were nearing the end of the workday, with only about 75% of the work completed, George said something that I haven’t forgotten, even today some 30 years later.
“Just get it put together so we can go home at quitting time. We can fix it tomorrow. What we’ve got done is good enough for government work, and the rest doesn’t matter.”
Good enough for government work? And the rest doesn’t matter?
Are you kidding me?
My background, growing up in an entrepreneurial family had taught me differently. If you’re going to do something, anything, then do it right the first time. Be an artist with your work. Do it so good that you would be willing to sign your name to it so people would know what you stand for and what you are capable of.
When Apple released the MacIntosh back in the 80’s, Steve Jobs had the whole design team sign a piece of paper that was copied and printed on the inside of every Mac computer case, the equivalent of an artist signing her work. And they were artists signing their own work of art.
Is George much different than many people in the workplace today? Probably not. According to surveys done by the Gallup organization 20% of the people at any average workplace actually care about work quality and completeness. On the other hand, approximately 20% of the workforce couldn’t care less. These are the people who have already quit... they just haven’t told anyone yet. That leaves a large chunk of people in the middle who are simply neutral and influenced by the mood of the day. They can be motivated some days, and totally useless on another, but very predictably uninspired.
Way too many people aspire to be average!
That’s where it’s safe. That’s where you can’t be questioned or singled out. That’s where you can be alone, along with everyone else and not take responsibility for the incredibly average results your team or organization is (under)achieving.
That’s what I call the “Herd mentality”.
They sit contentedly, out in the cubicle farm, happily chewing their cud, until it’s time to come in and be milked. They give it up and then amble back out to repeat the process twice a day, every day, amen. The only time they make noise is when they are loaded on the truck to be taken to market or in business terms: corrected, disciplined or fired. That’s when the moaning, mooing and blaming starts, and that seems to be the only time they are willing to speak up, speak out and be heard.
Is it too late for them?
I think not.
I believe that we have a lot of uninspired people because we have a lot of uninspired leaders.
They need a passion and leaders who can instil it into them. They need someone to show them that they believe in them and are willing to support, coach and do whatever it takes to build and inspire and engage them. They need values that they can believe in and connect with that they would be willing to let drive and direct their actions throughout their days, and they need, no they crave, a vision that is clear, simple and motivational that speaks to them about why the company exists and about how their contribution adds to the overall success of the organization and their customers. Engagement is more of an attitude than a skill set. It’s not something you tell people to do without communicating with them why it is in their best interests to do it. It’s not a shirt we wear and put on and off as we like, it comes right from our core. It is a decision that we make each and every day, based on the existing culture and leadership within a company.
Most engagement problems can be remedied by improving leadership and working on the understanding and motivation that comes from good communication and execution.
Be an artist.
Never settle for average.
Don’t do something just to put in time...better not to do it at all. Insist on being the very best you can be and doing the very best that you can do, because when you do, you can go home every night satisfied that you did your best and know that you made a valuable contribution to your career, your company and your team.
Go, and make an Impact!
A Bit about me...
My vision is quite simple: to make an impact on the lives of the people who have been entrusted to me: You (for reading this article), my family and my clients.
I coach people. Direct, practical, innovative, meaningful.
I coach for excellence.
I love what I do... and so do my clients.
Over the years I've noticed that business coaching that was supposed to make us stronger actually took away our confidence and made us doubt ourselves. Confidence and people skills aren't developed just by measuring and planning everything, they grow through doing and learning from experience and by taking risks. People want to make a difference. Build teams. Be better understood. Live more confidently.
I founded IBC Impact Business Communication Inc. to create a world where business people communicate and act with confidence to create better worlds for themselves. Worlds where they feel powerful and free to express themselves. Worlds where something as simple as conversation creates energy, understanding and impact. Worlds so exquisite, I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
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