Competing With “Good Enough”

Competing With “Good Enough”

At any given moment, on any given day approximately 70% of our employees are disengaged in their jobs and probably disenchanted with their retail organization. 18% of disengaged employee actively undermine their company and coworkers. Which leaves us with about 52% of employees who are doing just enough to get by so they don’t pull focus and open themselves up to coaching/counseling. Which means they are doing just “good enough”.

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There is an odd reality in retail and with retail leadership – every retail organization speaks to hoping to become a “world class employer” or a “best place to work” and we create best practices and establish benchmarks that we believe will help us create a business and build our brand to a level that will differentiate us from the competition. However, over time we allow the stifling and hand-tying of innovation and creative business solutions to interfere with growth in lieu of the “but we’ve always done it this way” approach. Bureaucracy, managing compliance, egos, and work void of true meaning and purpose creep into business like a plague. We become complacent and content with this. Being “good enough” suddenly is acceptable. Our employees become predictable and…acquiescent.

Good Is A Far Cry From Great

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The real question is whether or not accepting “good enough” is okay. It is not. It’s not acceptable for an individual to deliver results that are “good enough” and it’s not acceptable for an organization to cultivate a cultural reality that makes the team members feels like “good enough” is all they are willing to produce.

As I was looking for information to share on this topic I found a very distressing article by CareerRealism titled, “Workaholics: Why You Should Only Do Just Enough To Get By“. Initially, when I kept thinking about the topic of “good enough” I was placing the accountability, 100%, on the employees. When I read this article I realized that though there are certainly people who contribute mediocre results deliberately…however, organizations do, indeed, own some of the responsibility for this practice being a reality. The CareerRealism article gave some pretty staggering examples of how an organization’s culture can create a reality of mediocrity: “Does your hard work and performance eventually lead to a raise? No. Does it eventually lead to a promotion? No.”

‘According to a report by USA Today, the average annual raise an employee can expect to receive is 3% at best, and that’s not really a raise when you consider inflation.’

‘A report by Forbes also indicates that employees who stay at the same job for more than two years are likely to earn 50% less over their lifetime.’

The article explains, “One thing that’s important to understand about ‘doing just enough to get by’, is that it’s not about being spiteful. It’s not about being anti-team player. It’s about gaining self-respect, and beyond self-respect it’s about playing the game the way the game is meant to be played. In this day and age, you don’t achieve success in your career by being the last guy/girl standing. You succeed by being the first one to the finish line, and the finish line is the front door you will be walking through on your way out as you leave one job for another.” Presumably one that offers the employees an elevated role that your organization would not and a compensation/benefits packing that was more compelling and beneficial.

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Tanveer Naseer, Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer makes an amazing case for where we go wrong and are complicit in the delivery of “good enough”, “In that singular quest to get things done, we risk losing out on making things happen; of discovering those opportunities to help our employees and our organization to learn, grow, and evolve. By allowing our brain to limit our focus on what we need to do to get through today, we lose out on discovering what we could achieve for tomorrow. Again, it’s our brain’s tendency to find that path of least resistance; of assuaging any uncertainty we may have to grapple with by accepting only those narratives or assumptions that serve to reinforce how we choose to view our leadership and ourselves.”

Mr. Naseer goes on to say, “We have to own up to the truth that no one is inspired or passionate about committing themselves to being ‘good enough’. We also need to create a vision of a shared purpose that challenges our employees to rise above being ‘good enough’ because they see their potential to achieve greatness under our leadership. There’s no question that we’re living in a world where certain groups and individuals are using fear to push self-serving agendas and sow division within various communities. But the history of our shared humanity has proven time and again that fear-driven measures only lead us at best to achieve a standard of ‘good enough’, and at worst, to suffering a decline from what we used to be because we failed to tap into our collective potential to be more than we are today. In both our past and present, we find reminders of how we are defined by what we’re willing to accept and by what we challenge ourselves to aspire to.”

These are the reasons that the best retail leaders share the big picture and objectives of the business and communicate in a motivational and inspiring way. As leaders we need to understand that we have the ability to instill career capital in every single direct report and colleague we work with (as well as learn from all of these people). True retail leaders have the ability to transform those around them to being collaborative, contributing members of the organizations. They can lead their team members from being passive observers who are fearful of innovation and risk-taking to active innovators that can see and measure their value added to their team members, their department, store, and the company [and feel a sense of personal and professional accomplishment].

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The biggest obstacle we face in having an impact in our workplace deliver truly great results is in identifying where we stand today and where the gaps and challenges are that exist in our business and our leadership to make sure that we are supporting a culture that is conducive to ourselves and our team members delivering greatness. In this respect, if we are anything less than 100% honest and objective with ourselves, we will doing ourselves a disservice and will be unable to achieve the culture we hope to deliver and inspire. Organizations also need to look at and reevaluate and reinvent how they appreciate and recognize the people that deliver greatness consistently…without them (and they will go somewhere they will be recognized and rewarded if your organization fails to do so) we will just be “good enough” forever and ultimately that is not enough to ensure the organization thrives.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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