Life lesson #6: Mediocrity Casts a Shadow

When my team and I were developing the business plan and preparation for the launch of OUTsurance, we were housed in the RMB building in Sandton. I made an appointment with the then CEO of FirstRand, Paul Harris, to go and introduce myself. Paul was also one of the founders of RMB. 

I expected a general exchange of pleasantries, but Paul clearly had a pressing thought on his mind.

He looked at me and said: “Never accept mediocrity in this new business you plan to build, because mediocrity casts a shadow”. Then he made a drawing on a piece of paper to illustrate that if a CEO or executive or manager is mediocre or accepts mediocre performance, it leads to everyone reporting to that person being mediocre. The reason for this is that people generally comply with the standard expected of them. If a team leader is mediocre or accepts mediocrity, the whole team will be mediocre. If the CEO is mediocre or accepts mediocrity, the whole company will be mediocre. So, a leader’s mediocrity has a devastating effect on the whole team. You tolerate it at your own peril. 

I have found this to be true.

Whilst there are always exceptions to the rule, it is generally true that mediocrity is the result of poor leadership.

Very few people do more than what is expected of them. Most people adapt to the standard set by their leader. 

Mediocrity is like a cancer. It permeates the whole team. You need to declare war on it and fight it with every fiber in your body. If you don’t, you will never attain excellence. The idea of MiWay’s vision - to build a world-class business - originates from my intense aversion to mediocrity. If you are going to do something, you may just as well do it properly. The energy required to do a good job is very similar to the energy required to do a bad job. However, the consequences are vastly different. Accepting mediocrity is like being on a slippery slope to complete failure. The world is a very competitive place. There is no place for mediocrity. 

Let’s re-commit ourselves to our standard of delivering world-class performance and make MiWay a business that all of us can be proud of.

Have a wonderful day. Fight mediocrity today with every fibre in your body. 

Stay safe,
René Otto, CEO: MiWay Insurance Ltd

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