All leaders and all people have a silent enemy: Mediocrity. Throughout my life, I’ve seen countless people from every walk of life in every position imaginable make two choices. They either sink into mediocrity, or they rise above it. No one wants to be mediocre, no one. Whether we realize it or not, we often let some aspect of our lives slip into the average. Who wants that? Not me. I’ve made it my business to help others rise to their potential and help their team and company rise above as well. Here’s what I’ve learned in my decades of experience.
First, you need to be on guard. You need to actively watch for the mediocre and the comfort, in your life, business and those who work with you. I think Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys said it best when he said: “Beware the lollipop of mediocrity. Lick it once, and you’ll suck forever.”
Don’t you just love that quote? It’s a clever line, but it speaks to something we, as leaders in a service field, need to realize. Mediocrity is addictive. Once you let it slip in one area, it becomes hard to let it leave. Ask yourself these questions about yourself and your business:
- What is your average in the world;
- How are you showing up and what does that look like; and
- How is that based as a business leader?
Now, I want to pause a moment and point out something to you: Mediocrity is a personal bar. If I were to measure my own in dunking a basketball with that of a center like Shaq, would I be right in calling myself mediocre at dunking? If I were to measure my own driving skills with that of Kyle Busch, would I be right in calling my driving mediocre? If I were to measure my profits in my small (or even medium) business to that of Apple or Google, would I be right in saying my business is a failure?
The world’s average isn’t your average. You have talents, you have a purpose and you need to find them to reach your greatness. Look at what you do well, and do those things with everything you’ve got. Maybe there are some ways you could improve. Maybe there are some things you’re selling yourself short on and not trying. Don’t excuse those, but recognize them.
It’s the same in business. What is your business good at? What are your team members good at? How can you maximize the overall greatness of your business by playing on everyone’s strengths? This is what leaders need to think. But it first takes a mentality of being on guard against the average, and then it takes honest reflection on yourself and your business to figure out where and how to increase your business’ success.
“Great, I realize how I can be better, be great. But how do I get there?”
Well, I’m going to hold you off a bit and keep you hungry for just a moment more because I have one more brief tangent you need to realize. It’s not possible to separate the mediocrity in your personal and professional lives. You’re not going to succeed if you go gung ho for business and let your personal life waffle. Believe me, I know this from experience. Being mediocre in relationships or with your health will bleed over and limit your business. Remember that lollipop; don’t suck on it forever. It’s addictive. Take this advice to heart in every aspect of your life. I’m not saying you’ll be awesome and perfect at everything, but with work, you’ll keep growing, and your business will too.
The roadmap to rise above
Let’s get down to brass tacks. How do we overcome mediocrity? What are the steps I need to take to better myself and my company? It’s deceptively simple, but it takes an iron will to succeed. But you are leaders in your field, you can do it.
First, draw the line. Don’t give in to excuses. It will be hard. You’ll challenge yourself. Don’t give in to those minor pains of pushing yourself. Don’t be comfortable. Tell yourself: “That’s it. I’m ready. I’m hungry. I will be better at XYZ.”
Next, hunt down your strengths and go for it. Success and greatness are about maximizing your talents, knowing when a weakness can be trained up, and knowing when you need to give the role to someone better suited for it. I’m not so good at collecting data on my businesses. I can, but it’s not what I’m naturally good at. What I am good at is looking at the data and making an actionable plan to increase profits and success. It took me a long time to give up those roles to those who could do it better and step into my greatness rather than holding onto mediocrity.
Speaking of others, you need to get a good team around you. You need people who cover your weaknesses and excel where you struggle, and the other way around. You need people to call you out when you give up and accept when you do the same to them. There’s a reason we call our organizations businesses and companies and not “The Me Show with Some Helpers.”
Finally, you’ve got to put in the time. Nothing real or great comes without consistent time and effort. It’ll be easy the first day and maybe the second, but what about the third day? What about the thirtieth day? Day in and day out, give it all you’ve got. Encourage your team members to do the same. Model what you want every level of your business to look like. You’ll slip up. Everyone does. Get back on the horse and go for it.
Draw the line, find out your strengths, get a good team around you, and put in the time. Soon enough, you and your business will be all the better for it. Just remember to kick the habit of being mediocre and step into your greatness.