The old Scottish prayer ”From ghosties and ghoulies and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us” is a petition for protection. In our complex world today, mediocrity and status-quo are what go bump in the night. These are the ghosties and ghoulies in today’s world.
How recently have you heard the mantra, ”If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?” Could this be the mantra of mediocrity? Peter M. Senge in his ground breaking work The Fifth Discipline says that ”the prevailing system of management is, at its core,
dedicated to mediocrity.” Only by tapping into the great reservoir of spirit and collective intelligence created when people work together at their highest level do organizations and people excel. To meet the challenges and opportunities of our world we must do more than survive. We must thrive. To make lasting contributions to the world we are compelled to break the spell of mediocrity.
An organization which is committed to innovation, flexibility and thriving must be able to able to learn faster than the competition. It is the only sustainable competitive advantage according to Senge. He defines a learning organization as one that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future.
Leaders committed to developing organizations that contribute and thrive provide the context for people to develop personal mastery. People who are committed to their own life long learning and are able to ”consistently realize the results that matter most deeply to them” have a high level of personal mastery. Like a master craftsman, they have reached a special level of proficiency. They are not willing to simply mark time in a job.
Personal mastery involves:
1. Knowing our personal values
2. Clarifying and refining at a deeper level our personal vision
3. Taking responsibility for our current reality without blame or playing the victim
4. Saying yes to what supports our vision and values
5. Releasing what distracts or drains our energies
6. Knowing we are worthy and able to have what we passionately desire
7. Willing to be patient
Organizations rarely encourage the development of their employees in this manner. To some it must seem as if the inmates are running the asylum. According to Senge, personal mastery is an ”essential corner stone of the learning organization –the learning organization’s spiritual foundation.” Bill O’Brien, CEO of Hanover Insurance, observes 30 year olds. He says they ”…lose their commitment, the sense of mission, and the excitement with which they started their careers. We get damn little of their energy and almost none of their spirit.”
Rumi, thirteenth century poet said, ”Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in his heart.” Traditional management practices discount the power of ”getting to the heart of the matter” because it isn’t am line item on a balance sheet or profit and loss statement. Your organization can be no better than the individuals that you hire, develop and nurture.
Are you willing to settle for compliance or are you looking for commitment to your vision, mission and goals? Is your organization masquerading as excellent when, in fact, it is mediocre compared to what it could be?