Hire for enthusiastic and keep people that way by treating them as if you appreciate them, as if you can’t do without them and as if their success is what matters. Stop accepting mediocrity. Start rewarding excellence – EVEN if everyone is excellent. Rewarding average isn’t going to make you successful, rewarding excellence will.

There is a really interesting book that just came out by Julie Kampf entitled “From My Bad to My Best: How Individuals and Companies Can Differentiate Themselves in the Age of Mediocrity.” In it Julie talks about a trend today for companies to accept mediocrity as acceptable performance.

I hate to say it, but we brought this on ourselves. The day we used the word “competency” to describe what people were supposed to strive for, we made mediocre the standard. The day we bought into the bell curve where the majority had to scale into the middle, we made mediocre the standard. The day we began leaving a 15% tip for any kind of service in a restaurant, no matter how bad, we made mediocre the standard.

In organizations we have duped ourselves into thinking that making the majority ‘average’ in their performance (the bell curve, remember?) would make them want to work harder to be in the top few. We have convinced ourselves that excellence is for the few, not the many. Somehow we have bought into the notion that by telling someone that their best is never good enough they will strive to meet our ‘impossible’ standard. Because no matter what you do the majority will ALWAYS be in the middle of the bell curve. Remind you of a dysfunctional family? The same dynamics apply.

Instead we’ve developed a work force that, for the most part, is happy with average. If they get to keep their jobs and continue to get paid, then what’s the problem? The problem is that companies will not survive into the future if their work force settles for mediocrity. Average isn’t going to translate into profitability. As a top executive once told me,

I need people to be working at 150% but they are only working at 75%.”

That’s right. Because 75% is good enough. Even Microsoft, long known for its forced ranking system has changed their ways.

And you aren’t treating your employees as if they deserve more either. You put incompetent people in charge. You make people managers who don’t relate well to people. You reward success at the expense of others. You reward those who sell up well, not those who go the extra mile.

Mediocrity, not a poor product, or a super competitive marketplace, will kill your business. Look within first, you may be surprised by what you discover.