I’m amazed by leaders who are able to take a mediocre team and make them great. Unfortunately, I’m also saddened to see so many leaders consent to mediocrity as an acceptable standard.
In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins became famous for declaring, “Good is the enemy of great.” He went on to explain that we don't have great schools principally because we have good schools. And we don't have great government principally because we have good government. Furthermore, he believes that few people attain great lives in large part because it’s just too easy to settle for a good life.
These same observations can be attributed to struggles within the financial services industry. The business environment and customer expectations are changing at a pace never seen before. In fact, over the last several years, many financial institutions have become so overwhelmed with the day-to-day operations of the business that they have fallen into this same trap of mediocrity. When considering the demographic changes occurring within the banking industry, it seems pretty clear that reactive, slow, and mediocre teams will likely not survive the challenges on the horizon.
In our work with financial institutions across the country, we have identified three strategies that have consistently helped leaders move their teams from mediocre performance to high levels of performance. Here are three things you can do right now to kill mediocrity in your organization:
- Set stretch goals. Keep the “law of the lid” in mind when goal setting. It’s no coincidence that financial institutions which strive to achieve ROA objectives of 1.00 will likely never catch up to those institutions which aim to achieve ROAs of 1.50 or higher. Think big, be innovative, and cast a vision that clearly shows what winning looks like. Wimpy goals seldom inspire the best of the best. Winners like to win, and they make a habit of winning.
- Get rid of low performers and unhappy people. It may sound harsh, but underperformers and unhappy people are typically at the core of mediocrity in many organizations. Although it is admirable to “coach up” an underperforming team member, it should be a conscious effort that is done over the course of months, not years. At the same time, it’s nearly impossible to coach someone to be happy. To that end, there are no free rides in the best financial institutions, and there’s no place for unhappy people who bring down the team. On the other hand, happy, energetic, fast-paced employees almost always provide an immediate boost to a team’s overall morale, spirit, and results.
- Eliminate excuses and roadblocks. Be obsessed with identifying and eliminating excuses, hurdles, and roadblocks. Listen carefully to yourself and your team. Call out excuses early and often, and strive to challenge your team to develop time-driven solutions. A defeated excuse is as important to celebrate as an accomplished strategy.
Those financial institutions which practice these three principles are typically more profitable, attract and retain the best talent, and have the most fun. In doing so, they create a winning culture with performance-driven and energetic employees, as well as a conviction to eliminate barriers to success. These principles help to eliminate mediocrity and fuel greatness.