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Overcoming A "Good-Enough" Culture Mindset

Billions of dollars are wasted each year by companies who compromise on standards. Many leaders endanger themselves and their organizations by permitting a “good-enough culture.” Fortunately, this danger of mediocrity has a remedy.

“Only the mediocre are always at their best.” ~ Jean Giraudoux, French essayist

The good-enough culture plagues an organization in every aspect of its operation, all the way down to the most basic:

• Lack of productivity
• Staff turnover
• Defective products
• Warranty costs
• Safety costs
• Inefficiency and waste
• Dissatisfied customers
• Lost sales
• Layoffs
• Shrinking profits
• Poor reputation

If not corrected, the issues feed on themselves.

Growing the Good-Enough Culture

The good-enough culture flows from the top down. It takes root when leaders believe that a good-enough approach is acceptable.

Typically, leaders who have the impression that life is rewarding enough don’t see the need to make things better for everyone else. Leaders with a self-focused mindset have one or more of the following issues:

• Apathy: No real concern for others.
• Laziness: No felt need to give more than an adequate effort.
• Disengagement: Not enough involvement (or avoidance) with staff or specific operations to know that troubles exist.
• Greed: Less monetary reward if more resources are spent on system shortcomings.
• Fear of failure: Too much risk in change.
• Pride: A need to preserve image by avoiding problems.
• Ignorance: No desire to know how the operation works, or how it could be better.
• Resentment: A dislike of bad news and the people who bring it.

Leaders who don’t understand the power of excellence don’t care enough about pursuing it. This lack of caring is what author Subir Chowdhury claims is the main cause of a good-enough culture, in his book, The Difference: When Good Enough Isn’t Enough (Penguin Random House, 2017).

When leaders don’t care enough about being the best they can be, why would staff? Leaders often cause slow failure simply by allowing mediocrity to set in. Complacent and falsely secure, organizations are unprepared to respond effectively when the bleeding begins and gradual decline ensues.

Symptoms of “Good-Enough”

Organizations and leaders who don’t care much about excellence will signal this throughout the system:

• Leaders often ignore the elephant on the conference room table. Certain bad topics are not discussed. When staff leave a meeting knowing an underlying issue is unaddressed, this is a sign that the status quo is too important to disrupt. Good enough is good enough.

• When red tape bogs down a process and is discussed with no effort to get to root causes, this is a trouble sign. Leaders simply want the bottleneck to go away, without concern for prevention. They permit an exception to the rules and everyone goes back about their business because good enough is good enough.

• People start blaming one another during stressful situations rather than trying to reach understanding. Leaders don’t regard teamwork worth their time and effort, so they allow people to endure disunity because good enough is good enough.

• Leaders are more upset at delivery numbers than product quality. The concessions are easier than diving into the causes and effective solutions, because good enough is good enough.

• Employees are skeptical of feedback forms, company surveys, or information meetings because their voices are rarely valued, heard, or acted upon. Any improvements are minor, not requiring a significant investment. Leaders don’t emphasize positive change because good enough is good enough.

• Leaders see staff turnover and exit interviews indicate a managerial problem. But they see it more difficult to replace a manager―with a higher salary requirement and a more complex recruitment process―than to continue finding new employees with fairly common skills. Leaders choose to make due, overlooking the manager’s weaknesses because good enough is good enough.

When leaders reveal these symptoms, it is a general indication that they don’t really care enough about excellence to truly implement it, and probably don’t understand how to.

Overcoming the Good-Enough Culture

Author Chowdhury suggests four basic principles leaders can apply to overcome the good-enough syndrome.

1. Truthfulness / Directness: Instill a culture of transparency and honesty. Deal with trials directly and openly and reduce fear by welcoming feedback. This gives responsibility to staff to bring issues to the table. Leaders who can accept bad news, and respond with fairness and understanding, establish higher levels of emotional safety, accountability, and excellence. Good enough is no longer good enough.

2. Consideration for Others: Care about people; be attentive. Engage others, listen deeply, and share understanding. Communicate an empathetic mindset on what people are going through, and how things can be improved for them. Leaders who care enough to be helpful and unselfish will build reciprocity and find that thoughtfulness inspires best efforts. Quality becomes a desired trait, because good enough is no longer acceptable.

3. Taking Responsibility: Demonstrate responsibility and inspire the same in others. Accept critical feedback but not without viable proposals for solutions. Great leaders prompt everyone to add value and make positive changes. They analyze strategies and potential outcomes for everyone. With a sense of unity, staff go the extra mile because good enough is not an option.

4. Determination: Lead by example. Make commitments and stay the course. Show that success requires resolve, decisions, and worthy goals. Quick fixes don’t favor long-term improvements. Leaders who don’t give up when things get tough make a lasting impression that drives a can-do culture, because good enough never provides that value.
When leaders care, excellence becomes contagious. People get energized to find ways to combat mediocrity.

Leaders bring out the best in people and in themselves when they look beyond the good-enough mindset.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a transformational leader who inspires individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders create a culture where respect and trust flourish.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-i 2.0, Hogan Lead, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture strengths-based conversations in the workplace. You can become an inspiring leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area executive coaching and leadership development firm helping innovative companies and law firms develop emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders. We help build coaching cultures of positive engagement.

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach|
Trusted Leadership Advisor
Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workplace Expert

I coach leaders to cultivate clarity, creativity, focus, trust, and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture.
Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies develop emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders.

Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded rare "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development. Alan Weiss, Ph.D., President, Summit Consulting Group

Are you an executive leader who wants to be more effective at work and get better results?

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