A frustration expressed by many leaders is the concern that mediocrity is accepted in their organizations. Poor performers are moved around instead of fired. Status quo rules the day. New ideas are shot down. Covering your butt takes precedent over taking a risk. Skepticism and cynicism is rampant. Missing goals and deadlines are accepted. How do you change that? Maybe it requires your own Charles Barkley.

I saw a TV interview of former NBA player Charles Barkley who talked about his time at Auburn University. Football was king at Auburn and its basketball program was mediocre. When the team lost a game, freshman Barkley was devastated. As he cried in the locker room after the game, some of his teammates asked him what he was crying about. They took the loss in stride, telling him that he should get used to losing since it would happen a lot.

For Barkley, losing was not an option and he made it clear to his team, in his play and his locker room conversations, that losing would no longer be the norm. He wanted to be on a winning team and he rallied his teammates to want to be on a winning team too. Through his leadership, Auburn went to the NCAA tournament for the first time – and made it to The Big Dance five years in a row.

To kill mediocrity, every team could use a Charles Barkley. But if you don’t have a Charles Barkley on your team, here is how you can turn the tide on a culture of mediocrity:

  • Reward risk taking
  • Hold people accountable for meeting goals
  • Encourage just-in-time feedback
  • Invite people to share their opinions
  • Ensure expectation-setting occurs regularly
  • Provide ways for ideas to bubble up

Mediocrity can be contagious. The antidote is a focus on winning and innovation – and the encouragement of the Charles Barkleys in your organization who can rally their teams to success.

How have you pushed against mediocrity in your organization?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

To identify ways to combat mediocrity, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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