Inspire mediocrity by being a leader who changes everything on the first run, every time.

Why it happens

As a leader, of course you want everything that emerges from your “locker room” to be perfect. After all, it reflects on your organization. And on you. And naturally, you want to help your team members become better at what they do, build stronger skills, and raise their expectations of themselves and others.

But there is a difference between making changes that need to be made, and making changes because something isn’t done/written/crafted the way you would have done it. Sure, in the world of human nature, you would do it better (and it might feel good to let others know that). But remember this – once you reach a leadership level, your job as a technician is done. Do you really want the burden of doing the work of every single member of your team, or do you want to train and empower them to take on more responsibility so that you can tend to the business of leading?

How it happens

When you are tempted to bring out the red pen, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Does the piece of work accomplish its goals?
    2. Does it reflect well on the institutional brand?
    3. Is it free of technical, grammatical, or factual errors?

If the answers to these questions are “no,” then red-pen away, for clearly, your team member needs to learn a few things about submitting quality work. But if the answers are “yes,” ask yourself a fourth question: Am I making these changes simply because I would have done this differently?

Don’t confuse improving a team member’s work with making their work like yours. The same brilliant thing can be said with different words; the same compelling piece of art can be created with different colors and lines; the same project can be accomplished successfully with different approaches.

What, exactly, happens

And when a leader consistently red-pens their team members’ work for taste preferences, they send these messages:

    • Your skills are not up to par.
    • I don’t trust or value your expertise.
    • The time and effort you’ve put into this was wasted.

The resulting mindset is this:  I don’t need to put together my very best for the first draft, because it will always be changed to whatever the boss wants anyway. And the outcome of that is: consistent mediocrity.


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