You want your people to give 150% percent effort every day, and you are not seeing it. You brought in motivational speakers and trainers, and told everyone what you want, yet nothing is happening!

This is a common theme heard daily. Maybe a few people are doing what senior management wants, but those are the exceptions. If you continue to throw the same solutions at a problem, you are going to get the same outcomes. However, I am going to suggest that first you need to define your problem correctly and then decide if you are willing to do what it takes to solve the problem.

The C-Suite (CE0, President, COO, CFO, etc.) is typically the culprit in most organizations where results are not being maximized and employees are not being fully engaged. This is due to leadership not creating an environment that is conducive to proper motivation. As a result, they are inadvertently causing mediocrity in their organization.

For example, let’s take “Mike,” the CEO of XYZ Company. Mike believes it is impossible to hire good sales talent. In his mind, he has tried everything. He has tried a high salary with low commission, high salary with high commission, and, most recently, low salary and high commission. After many variations, Mike’s latest compensation offer is no longer competitive enough to attract a seasoned top performer, so he’s going to put together a package to hedge his bets. By doing so, he will almost guarantee himself bad results.

Where I am going with all of this? Mike failed to see his real problem. Mike did not know how to properly interview sales people so he selected the wrong people. Even if he selected the right people he did not know how to get them ramped up properly and he was not very good at managing them. The problem was not compensation. So now he has made his problem even worse. Mike’s latest compensation offer is no longer competitive to attract a seasoned top performer. His belief system that “it is impossible to hire good sales talent” has caused him to not be able to attract top talent.  Unless he changes his belief system he will continue to hire poor talent and see bad results from sales people.

Another stumbling block is the average management belief system on how much detail they need to share with their teams and how often they have to communicate with them. Many executive belief systems sound something like this:

  • I share information on a need-to-know basis; if I give out too much information it might get in the hands of the wrong people.
  • I like to share small pieces of information as it gives me more control over my people.
  • I do not have time to provide regular communications to everyone.
  • My people have been doing this job for “X” years and should know what to do.
  • Strategy is for the executive team only. The rest of my people would not understand it anyway.

The results of these beliefs are frustration, mistrust, and misunderstanding between management and their subordinates, which again results in mediocrity. Imagine your company as a jigsaw puzzle, just like the ones we built as kids. Imagine trying to build a puzzle without seeing the completed picture. How excited would you be about that puzzle? The picture always matters. My 8-year-old son does not want to build a puzzle with a picture of Barbie on it. However, if you show him a Star Wars picture he will stay up all night to build that puzzle. Another key to building the puzzle is having all the pieces. Suppose you have a puzzle where someone only gives you half the pieces or as you put pieces together they start disappearing. In the latter case, all you can see is the pieces that are left, so there is no satisfaction seeing what has been built. In other words, there is no sense of progress, no way to know that you have achieved a certain percentage of the goal. Worse, since you do not understand the goals of your organization, you believe that in the scheme of things your job is not that meaningful to the whole puzzle or does not matter at all. How hard would you work?

The following are examples of executive beliefs that are causing mediocrity in their company:

  • I cannot afford “A” players.
  • Loyalty is synonymous with indispensability.
  • I do not like to fire people.
  • It will be a lot of work to find new people and train them, so it is better just to keep the poor performers.
  • I do not have to motivate my top performers.
  • I am not a babysitter.

It has been found that the key to unlocking mediocrity is to look at an organization’s executive level and determining how their belief systems are holding back the company. Usually when they throw training at what they think is the problem, the real issues start bubbling up to the top, where it started to begin with. Training can only maximize performance within the existing systems and processes. If those are constrained by limiting belief systems then the training will fail to get the results desired. When you see mediocrity in your company, you have to look for two types: belief systems and activities that are not supporting the outcomes you want. Usually it is the first that leads to the second.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To contact Howard Shore please call (305) 722-7213 or email him at [email protected].

Business Coaching, Business Planning, Leadership, Management

About Howard M. Shore

Howard M. Shore is a Certified Gazelles Coach, Certified Public Accountant Certified Executive Coach, Certified Behavioral Analyst, Certified Values Analyst, and Certified Attributes Index Analyst. He has earned Bachelor and MBA degrees from Florida International University, and completed advanced executive programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.