Image by Elena Abrazhevich
In the world of work, we tend to be tolerant — perhaps overly tolerant — of failure. Of course, no business sets out to fail. And yet, we often find ourselves surrounded by workplace failure — often initiated by new leaders who seem to try not to fail rather than preparing for success. Even worse, as work teams and entire organizations, we too often accept the resulting mediocrity as normal.
So when do we stop promoting people only to watch them fail? How do we move work teams past normalized mediocrity?
Our Guest: Claire Chandler, Leadership Effectiveness Expert
This week on the #WorkTrends podcast, Claire Chandler, President and Founder of Talent Boost, joins us to answer my questions about why we accept mediocrity from our leaders and teams — and why companies tend to promote high-performers only to watch them fail.
Claire explained companies tend to promote individuals based on past performance rather than future potential. “Companies certainly don’t strive for failure. But organizations tend to make the assumption that a leader in a new role is going to figure it out. And without a lot of hand-holding, a lot of support, or training or onboarding. It’s as if we’re saying, ‘They’re A-players. They’ve done some great things in the past. They’ll figure it out.’ And unfortunately, the statistics don’t bear that out.” Soon, Claire intimated, a mediocre performance level becomes the norm.
“And mediocrity can turn into failure very, very quickly.”
The Root Cause of Workplace Failure: Lack of Preparedness
“McKinsey says, based on all the research and all the interviews they’ve done, that 75% of leaders cite a lack of preparedness as the number one cause of workplace and leadership failure,” Claire told us. “And it’s not ‘did they mentally prepare’ or ‘do they have the right resume,’” she added. Instead, it’s more about the preparedness that comes from leaders asking: “What will it take to succeed in this specific new role?”
Claire went on to tell us how organizations can intentionally prepare their top performers for success in new leadership roles, the importance of gaining clarity on the company mission and how a leader helps achieve that mission, and so much more. Listen to the entire episode. As you do, take a close look at your team and organization. Then ask yourself:
Does your company promote high performers then enable them to fail as leaders? Do they, and the people who work for them, start to accept mediocrity as normal?