Are You Enabling Mediocrity in Your Organization?

Mediocrity is bad for a number of reasons.  Workplaces that allow mediocrity also de-motivate high performers.  And tolerating mediocrity reduces an organization’s energy and productivity, as well as employee engagement and satisfaction.

No one hires good people every time.  You will hire false positives.  The key is what you do about it, and the ones to be concerned about are the mediocre hires.  The truly bad new hire — who does not perform well or doesn’t fit the culture — can be addressed fairly quickly, but a mediocre hire will often be allowed to continue on.  Yet the difference in performance between a mediocre performer and a high performer is significant; and the difference adds up over time.  So address the mediocre performers:  Develop their skills to be good, solid performers; or move them to a position that better fits their abilities; or separate them.  Both of you will be happier in the long-run.

I’m not saying that all employees should be high-performers, but the majority of your people need to be solid contributors, and wanting to learn and grow.

Watch for my Executive Insights newsletter for many more tips on how to address mediocrity in an organization.

© Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Why You Need Your Own Best Practices

There are very, very few companies that have been great over a long time.  It’s as if they were able to assemble an organization, a strategy, a culture, and product/services that was aligned, efficient, effective, and driven to deliver what the market wanted at a precise moment in history, but it was not sustainable.  Or they became less competitive, or their product or service was superseded by something better.  Think of Kodak, Xerox, Compaq, and most recently, Blackberry.

The problem is that when they are at the top and business is booming, everyone points at them as something to emulate.  The admirers hold them up as the ‘way to do it’ and they attempt to copy the success.  United tried to copy Southwest with Ted, K-Mart tried to copy Wal-Mart, Compaq tried to copy Dell, and none of those worked.

I’m not saying that we can’t learn from others.  What I am saying is be careful about trying to copy what someone else does well.  Focus instead on the few truisms that will enhance your own strategy, culture, and operations.  Develop monitoring systems that alert you to changes external and internal to your own organization.  And build skills at strategy, execution, and organization development without heavy reliance on models based on other companies.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Should You Fit the Job to the Person, or the Person to the Job?

When I work with a client on organization structure, the question often comes up:  “Should we design the job around the person we have, or design the organization structure and job first and then find the right person to fill the role?
The answer is not always simple, but here are two rules of thumb that can help:

  • Be clear about what results are required from the position, then assess whether the person has what it takes to successfully deliver those results.  Don’t change the results in an attempt to fit a person into the role.

Remember that we all have strengths and weaknesses.  It is the strengths that we are primarily concerned with as long as the weaknesses don’t interfere with overall performance.  Peter Drucker said to manage people for their strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant.  If you can do that, and the strengths fit the job, then go for it.

The Payoff of a Learning Organization

We learn steadily, every day.  And good companies do too.  The best companies have hundreds or thousands of employees gaining more knowledge and working better every single day, accruing knowledge that they use to create, innovate, and perform better.  Not all workplaces are like that, but they could be by applying systems thinking, learning principles, and newer effective management techniques and workforce policies.  In today’s competitive marketplace, can you afford not to have a learning organization?

The most important factor in successful organizational change

Most attempts at organization change fail.

Even if the change is eventually successful, the cost is often far higher than necessary. Those costs include complaints from people who feel threatened, the damage to trust from those who were surprised or blindsided, the need to resolve conflicting priorities, lost opportunities from miscommunication, and others.

In my 30 years of helping organizations, the most important part of change happens upfront, before the change is implemented. And it involves getting the relatively few people in key positions to agree to the change, to understand how the change serves their self-interest, and to be able to effectively sponsor the change both publicly and privately. To get change right, take the time upfront to prepare for success.

© Bob Legge 2014  All rights reserved

The problem with improving innovation

For years I’ve helped companies improve innovation in a number of ways, and I continue to find that innovation itself is widely misunderstood.  Innovation is how companies rapidly grow revenues and emerge as leaders in their industries.  It is the single most important trait of highly successful companies.  Innovation is not the same a continuous improvement or problem solving.  It typically does not occur in management meetings or strategic planning.  You won’t get innovation by paying people to get results that are innovative.  Yet there are specific organizational approaches, skills, and ways of rewarding innovation that do work and have been proven effective.
Increasing innovation in an organization involves a step-by-step approach to develop skills and processes, generate ideas, filter them, test them and develop them while assessing risk, return, and ease of implementation.  The starting point is the willingness of senior leaders to create an environment where innovation flourishes.  And that is often the most difficult step.
For my 10 steps to creating an innovative organization, contact me.

How to avoid major problems in your organization

One day a lily pad appeared on the surface of a pond.  The next day there were two lily pads.  On the third day there were four lily pads, on the fourth day there were eight lily pads, and so on.  The pond was completely covered with lily pads on the fiftieth day.  The question is, on what day was the pond half full of lily pads?  The answer is, of course, the forty-ninth day.
Leaders often wait too long to address problems.  They wait until it’s too late–Day 49 when the problem has become so great extraordinary measures must be taken.  We’ve all seen it happen at Blackberry, at Blockbuster, at Kodak, and many others.

In all these cases, the problem wasn’t the external market change, but how the organization responded.  I’ve seen this first hand when handling organizational crises during a Fortune 500 bankruptcy, getting a major change program back on track at a mid-market utility, completing culture change at the top of a medium size transportation company, and accelerating a strategic shift at an Inc. 500 manufacturer, and many others.

Usually the problem is fairly well-known in the organization, but doesn’t show-up on any performance metrics.  And for a number of reasons, the leader isn’t told about it until it’s too late. I am regularly asked by leaders to provide objective organizational assessments to identify such problems early so the leader can take effective action before it gets out of hand.

What early-stage problems are growing in your organization?  What are you doing to get an objective assessment of problems before Day 49?

© Bob Legge 2014  All rights reserved