Archive for November, 2013

Non Profits: Moving Beyond Mediocrity

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Non Profit Mediocrity Can Be Changed

By Joseph John

A month or so ago, as I was leaving a meeting, I overheard an associate mutter something under his breath. I caught up to him and asked him “Hey, [name], I didn’t quite catch what you just said.”

He looked at me and smiled — or was it a pained grimace? He said, “Good to Great.” And then he added “some people should read that book.” He shook his head, and again I saw the look on his face.

My associate’s look and his comment took me aback briefly because I realized that he was so right. He did not have to elaborate. The non profit organization to which he was referring: was it good and didn’t know how to get to great? Or worse, yet, was it just mediocre?

I thought about that statement and I realized that the organization he was referring to was truly mired in mediocrity. Yes, an organization that majored in and was mired in mediocrity. That organization has a long journey before it even gets to good, let alone great.

When I got home, I scoured my bookshelf for yet another well-written classic of organizational behaviors and mindsets: GOOD TO GREAT, Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins. Yes, that was what my associate was referring to.

Collins talks about the Nucor System which “…rejected the old adage that people are your most important asset. In a good-to-great transformation, people are not your most important asset. The right people are.” Do we say “Amen” or “Right On” to that statement?  How many organizations look for someone just to fill a seat on the board rather than perform due diligence to determine if that person is a good “fit’ for the board?

Yes, Collins’ research is geared to the for-profit arena; however, there are just too many salient points in his book that can be applied to the non profit sector as well. He states that “Good is the Enemy of Great.” YIKES! If that’s the case, is it safe to assume that Mediocrity is the enemy of Good? Visually, this is what the Mediocrity continuum looks like:

Mediocrity                      >                       Good                          >                           Great

Gee, does our non profit organization enjoy being all the way over to the left-hand side of Greatness?

Now, let me pose the next question about non profit organizational behavior: How many degrees are there between mediocrity and good?  Oh, I’m sure there might be degrees that can be measured as an organization moves along the continuum to being good. But, instead of degrees of separation from being good, I believe it’s really a matter of shaking off as many of the traits that comprise mediocrity and prohibit the movement towards good.

Some of those traits are: complacency, lack of vision, unwillingness to establish stretch goals, unwillingness to measure productivity and accountability, preaching the gospel of “we never did it that way before,” and the list goes on.

Andrew Carnegie stated, “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” Based on Carnegie’s quote, I believe it is safe to say that many nonprofit organizations don’t attempt to find (or can’t) the best-of-the-best to sit on the board of directors. And why? Simply because they have no concept of greatness or the potential for their board and the organization to be good and then great. They’re mired in a culture of mediocrity and fail to focus on the personality traits that need to be fixed to be able to move along the continuum.

Going through the motions, year-after-year is mediocrity. Not challenging each other to establish stretch goals is mediocrity. Not challenging and questioning the status quo is mediocrity. Not establishing a year-long friend and fundraising campaign is mediocrity. Not holding every board member accountable for results and positive growth is mediocrity. seo company usa Not electing visionary leaders and doers is mediocrity.

Yes, I think you can see that mediocrity is a negative trait. It’s a trait that creates a delusional sense of self-satisfaction when, in fact, the organization is underachieving and, in essence, failing.

As a good friend said, when I discussed this article with her, the response was “Is mediocrity the contentment with where you are, or the fear of reaching higher?  It just takes one step….” Yes, just one step: a commitment to change and change with the right people.