Harsh maybe, but I really do feel that in today’s competitive global economy we need to start addressing the fact that we’re ill-equipping people for the expectations we have of them if we let sub-par performance go unchecked.
Now I recognise that for there to be high performers there must be those who are not and indeed there then exists in-between the two poles a raft of average performers. Interestingly, a speaker recently suggested to his audience of business professionals that most people in the room were probably good at what they did, but that being good was the new average. Quite simply he said, “you need to be exceptional, you need to stand out and you need to be very, very good”.
In the past 10 or 20 years we’ve propagated at every opportunity from kindergarten through to the boardroom, this idea that doing your best is all you can do. Everyone is a winner if you’ve tried your hardest and thereafter you should just be proud of your efforts.
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We increase the debilitating effect of accepting average performance with a social phenomenon known as Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) whereby people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their (more average) peers.
I suggest it’s now time to shake off the need to encourage everyone with false praise and recognise the realities of competitive markets. There are winners and losers; there are people who excel and those that don’t. We certainly need to help people identify their place within this sphere and we also need to help them develop (if they want to), but let’s not call everyone a success unless and until they actually succeed.
This article first appeared on Ambition.