MCD Partners

Memphis Daily News
Bringing Out the Best in Others
January 19, 2015
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

According to John D. Rockefeller, “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” The best leaders, employers, or workplaces are the ones that understand that just below the surface of average, waiting to be ignited, is the extraordinary.

Creating and sustaining that culture of continuous improvement, high expectations, and making extraordinary the new average does not require complex social engineering, or firing all the less than stellar employees. It just requires a shift in focus.

Working in an environment that functions well provides opportunities for meaningful contributions, and personal as well as professional growth for all employees. There will always be stars and slugs in any organization, but the vast majority of people fall somewhere in between, and depending on the decisions of the leader, can gravitate in either direction. Those decisions can be summed up in two major ways that businesses operate, how they hire, and how they fire. Those two decisions pave the way to success or failure.

First, hire with a growth mindset goal. When adding or replacing positions, it is not always possible to recruit the star next door. What is possible, however, is seeking potential employees with a growth mindset. They are the ones who see possibilities and potential in themselves and in the organization. They are coachable, and recognize the importance of learning new ways of being productive. They are average people who, when provided with mentoring, honest feedback, and a sense of belonging to something of value, will confront problems head-on, and develop the skill and techniques to do the work of a superior employee. They will be willing to learn the best practices needed to support the organization’s goals because they recognize that working for you will make them better at what they do.

Second, fire with a growth mind set goal. Termination of an employee, unless it is for an egregious offense, should not be a surprise attack. Productivity and growth are at risk in work environments where fear impedes the professional growth of the employees, and the average person retreats into the safety of sameness.

Average becomes below average as employees become reluctant to seek mentoring, advice, or collaborative problem-solving strategies when to do so would be perceived as not being able to do the job. It is only after providing an employee with honest feedback, support and the tools needed to be successful that the decision to continue or terminate employment should be made.

How a person leaves a job is important. If a person leaves your employ understanding the importance of developing a growth mind set and continuous improvement, then even if the job didn’t work out, they left a little better for the experience. Developing talent, showing average workers how to be superior, takes a greater commitment, but worth the investment of time.

Today, ask yourself what one thing you will do at your workplace, or in your life, to make extraordinary the new average.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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