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Mediocre…

My colleague and I were arguing recently.  I thought a training class we delivered was mediocre.     He thought we did a great job.  Further he offered anything that was sub-par was not actually our fault because we were just delivering materials created by others.

Besides, our class attendees were multi-tasking on their phones and PC’s and out of the room to the point that they weren’t really “present” anyway.

The best that could be said about the event was, “No one quit; no one got hurt.”  That’s a low bar to set; I agree.  But did meaningful knowledge transfer take place?  Not a chance.

In summary; he felt our efforts in spite of others’ shortcomings made the class excellent.  We tried our best.  I felt we are responsible for the class.  Mediocrity is mediocrity – regardless of effort.  So here we were, expending more energy arguing about a class neither of us was proud of to begin with.

Perhaps such energy would have paid more dividends were it invested in improving the class – it would likely have been the same amount of effort:

Why should I try to build a great company?  I believe that it is no harder to build something great than to build something good.  It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than perpetuating mediocrity. 

Jim Collins

I understand.  Not everything can be done with excellence.  Sometimes; somedays; we have all had one of “those” days.  Things simply don’t go right. And it’s bothersome for us all to suffer through perpetual mediocrity; many of us take it personally; take pride in our work.

We have been struggling to get this class perfected for several months now with only mediocre results to show for it – so far.  But mediocre is not what we stand for; we will get it right.

Only the mediocre are always at their best. 

Jean Girandoux

True; my colleague and I are mere mortals.  We make mistakes.  It’s hard to excel – that’s why they call it “excel”.  And I’m not so fanatical that I try to spoil everyone’s day (although sometimes I worry that I come close):

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. 

Harriet Beryl Braikes

So, after longer than a sprint but shorter than a marathon, I abandoned the argument.   My friendship and our working relationship are more valuable to me than trying to convince him.  But he knew I would not capitulate – that class was neither acceptable nor close to our team’s standard of excellence.

Maybe it is best simply to accept the fact that excellence upsets some people.  It always has and always will.  Live with it. 

Larry Bossidy

Where do we go from here?  I mean it’s the classic tree falling in the woods matter:  If we delivered a mediocre class; attended by people with a mediocre desire to learn; absent any quality check from our company’s executives  – indicating a mediocre level of interest in the class to begin with; does anybody hear it?

Perhaps after the class we should have enjoyed a nice dinner; imbibed in adult beverages; and invoked one of the blessings of my wife’s forefathers:

Irish Blessing:  May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is worth forgetting. 

Unknown Sage

If I am right and our last class was mediocre; it isn’t worth debating and certainly isn’t worth remembering.

The next class?  We will get it right; or “die” arguing about it I suppose.

GAP

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