Makarios Consulting Blog

Mediocrity and Muddling Are Not Okay

As a leader in your company – whether you are an owner, founder, or member of the C-suite – you know that tolerating mediocrity never engenders excellence. There is no “Muddle Model” that will drive business success. Yet, when it comes to getting the right people in the right seats, leaders consistently act as if mediocrity and muddling are okay.

Here are two common scenarios:

  1. A business founder has been acting as both visionary and integrator since the company’s inception. He is a fantastic visionary, but the business has outgrown his more limited skills as an integrator. He knows it. His leadership team knows it. The business is suffering because of it. But he drags his feet, unwilling to let go of the integrator responsibilities and give the role to someone truly suited for it.
  2. The CEO of a company recognizes that the person she promoted to head of customer service two years ago is not cut out to lead the department. Feedback surveys are showing an alarming trend toward dissatisfied customers. There is high churn among staff. Training for new hires is insufficient. Yet she stalls whenever the subject of replacing the person comes up in a leadership meeting.

The failure to act is not due to a lack of knowledge. In each of these examples, the leader knows that change is necessary. Not only does the leader know it, but the rest of the leadership team is repeatedly asking for the issue to be resolved. Furthermore, the business is having direct and quantifiable repercussions as a result of not having the right people in the right seats.

Why, then, are the leaders in these scenarios choosing to muddle along, putting off a decision that will clearly be in the best interests of the business? Why are they accepting consequences such as dissatisfied customers, lower revenue, and decreased productivity? Why are they giving their tacit approval to mediocrity, rather than demanding excellence … starting with themselves?

Let’s make it personal. If you are stalling rather than taking action to put the right people (perhaps including yourself) in the right seats…

Ask yourself:  Am I …

  • Resisting change because I don’t like the mess and upheaval that goes along with it?
    • If so, recognize that the chaos is temporary. However, if you refuse to make the necessary changes, the consequences to your business may be permanent.
  • Refusing to make changes to my own responsibilities because I fear losing control?
    • If so, bear in mind that one of your primary responsibilities as a leader is to develop new leaders. This creates a sustainable, energized business that is positioned for success
  • Reluctant to modify my role because I don’t know what I would fill my time with?
    • If so, visualize engaging in the activities at which you are most skilled and from which you derive the greatest fulfillment – without other tasks taking up your valuable time!
  • Avoiding change because I don’t believe anyone else will do the job as well as me?
    • If so, be assured that although no one will do the job in exactly the same way as you, the right person will – by definition – do the job to the same level of excellence.
  • Procrastinating on firing or moving a person on my team because I do not like having difficult conversations?
    • If so, be aware that you are just putting off the inevitable. The problem will not go away on its own unless the person decides to resign – which may never happen.
  • Making excuses for a person because I do not want to admit I made a mistake putting them in that seat, to begin with?
    • If so, accept a slice of humble pie. It might not taste good going down, but isn’t the welfare and success of your business worth a bit of indigestion?
  • Averse to letting someone go because I do not want to have to find a replacement?
    • If so, put the long-term needs of the business ahead of the short-term hassle of finding a replacement. Finding the right person will take time and effort, but the ROI is incredible.
  • Afraid of making a change because the person in question is a friend or family member?
    • If so, understand that friends and family members have to be held to the same standards as other employees. Treating them differently will make performance worse across the board.

Putting the right people – including yourself – in the right seats is tough. No question about it. But, as a leader, you need to be wholly focused on what is best for the business. Take a deep breath, gather up your courage, and declare with finality, “Mediocrity and muddling are not okay!”