Monday, July 24, 2017

Mediocrity vs. High Performance

I came across the title of an article today that was contrary to what I seem to teach in my leadership courses, 'Collaboration' Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, Says Science. So of course, I had to read it.
Photo by on Unsplash
As it turns out, the article isn't disagreeing with what I am telling people, but it focuses on the negative aspects of team collaboration instead of providing a solution.

The average team isn't very effective. According to Dr. Eunice Parisi-Cerew, 60% of teams fail to accomplish their objectives. If Johnny brought home a report card with this sort of grade, we would be very unhappy, and we'd be sitting on him until results improved. In the workplace, we tend to tolerate mediocrity. That's what I see as the most important underlying theme of the article, and it is barely mentioned at all.

We do tend to allow people to get by in the workplace. If they are doing satisfactory work, we allow it. Instead of merely looking for the trappings of team collaboration, we should be shooting for high performance results. Yes, in many of the average teams, high performers tend to carry others. Eventually, the person doing the carrying is going to get mad and go somewhere else--and the effort collapses.

Collaboration is merely working together to produce or create something--there is nothing in the definition that indicates the quality or value of what is created. When we focus merely on collaboration, we are focusing on form over substance. Instead of collaboration being the end result, collaboration should be a tool to achieve the result.

High performance teams are different. They focus on results--not just mediocre results, but outstanding results. They hold one another accountable. They are not afraid to communicate expectations and to push one another.

I am not a believer in having all A players on a team. They bring their own problems. But I am a big believer in developing balanced teams of high potential players--may be they're B's now, but they are willing to work hard and work together toward outstanding results. I have seen a group of B players achieve better results than one with multiple A players because they were focused on a team win, not a personal best.

Creating and nurturing high performance teams is hard work. It isn't luck. And it begins with a focus on high performance standards, not merely collaboration.

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