The Trap of Mediocrity - Part 1

by GitanjaliSaksena

Posted on April 4, 2016 at 9:00 PM

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius." Arthur Conan Doyle
It is the beginning of the new financial year for many organisations- desire to touch new heights, new goals, new plans, new perspectives and a strong sense of urgency. Almost reminds me of New Year Resolution time. Leaders are ready with their AOPs and monthly/quarterly/annual targets. The race is on..However, I am yet to meet a leader who is extremely satisfied with his team's performance at the end of the year- there is this nudging feeling that we could have done much better. "What did you say, you are not one of those leaders?..lucky you." We were recently doing a leadership development intervention for an organization which is scaling up extremely fast. Inspiring leaders are busy creating a global footprint and achieving the numbers. With all the action, it is close to being a beehive; 24 by 7 , 14 hours a week working, so much to do. One of the biggest leadership challenge that we noticed in this organization was the difference in 'perceived capabilities' of the leadership team and the second level reporting to them. Actually, it is not so much difference in is what is termed as the 'Trap of Mediocrity'. Where the leaders are left with a feeling that the team is just not making the effort to ramp up/ why invest in capability building, let's just look for new people with the 'right attitude'. As a leader, it is a double edged sword, there are consequences either ways- if you continue with the pattern or if you decide to break it. Now, this is not something new - Maslow's hierarchy talks about the concept of 'Self- Actualization'. All motivational speakers talk about how 'you can become the better you' once you decide to challenge yourself and take firm strides towards optimising your potential. But still, we fall into this trap because as individuals we decide that this continuous struggle is not worth it- 'lets just come, do the required work, achieve what is expected and go back home to friends, family, cycling, book clubs, Facebook etc. ' Well, let's accept it. Some of us are plain lazy - we love our couches and latest seasons of Homeland or Quantico- our screens drive our lives. We become impervious to what others say beyond a point of time. But Psychology defines 'Laziness as a habit rather than a mental health issue. It may reflect a lack of self-esteem, a lack of positive recognition by others, a lack of discipline stemming from low self-confidence, or a lack of interest in the activity or belief in its efficacy.' But the bigger question is 'If people intrinsically want to do well', but they are 'not doing as well as the organization wants to', then how do leaders of the organization solve this inherent conflict? How do you as a leader break free from this vicious circle? Will discuss thoughts/strategies in Part II of this paper. Do drop in a line if this topic resonates with you and interests you.

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