There’s nothing like fresh, hot, crispy, and perfectly salted, golden french fries!
I recently went to a restaurant and ordered a meal that included fries. As soon as I received my meal, I noticed my fries didn’t look fresh, hot, crispy, or golden. The whole order looked cold, flimsy, and brown.
I touched one. It felt stale and was lukewarm at best.
I tried one. It tasted like it looked.
I tried a second, just to make sure. It was the same outcome.
I was disappointed at the order of fries I was given and my immediate thoughts were, “I’m not going to enjoy these fries.” And, “I better eat them quickly before they get completely cold.” I even looked through them to see if I could pick out the “best” looking fries and just eat those.
I was going to settle for mediocre.
I had my reasons: I didn’t want to be “that” customer….the complaining customer. I didn’t want them thinking I let my own fries get cold, but then expected them to give me a fresh order (although this was less than 2 minutes after receiving the fries), I didn’t want to have to wait longer to receive new fries. I had reasons to settle and probably could have come up with even more
excuses….reasons to settle for the poor quality.
Nicki and I used to watch Hell’s Kitchen on Fox. On the show two teams of chefs competed against each other; each chef hoping to win the championship as the top overall chef. Eventually the contestants were dismissed from the show if they were the weak link on the losing team. I noticed something small within the show that has significant value. The Master Chef, Gordon Ramsey, would typically be the last eyes on the plates leaving the kitchen. If the plate didn’t reflect the quality he expected from a high scale restaurant, he rejected it and made the team start over on that dish. It would set the team back in their competition, but it also taught a valuable lesson, one my dad taught me growing up, “Do the job right the first time!”
While it’s easy to point out that the restaurant allowed poor quality food to leave their kitchen; or point out that the poor quality reflects their standards for what they allow to represent them as an organization. I have to equally look at myself and own up to how easily I was willing to settle for mediocre. I paid for something, but was going to accept less than what I paid for. Instead of expecting high quality I was going to settle for poor quality.
As a leader, I know there are times I have settled for mediocrity and allowed my church or other work teams to do the same; it’s something that I have to actively fight against.
Everyone is not willing to settle for mediocre, even if we are. If you’re the leader of an organization, any organization, this should be a sobering reality. Just because you’re willing to settle for mediocrity doesn’t mean your customer, client, or congregant is willing to settle, or will settle.
Why do leaders settle for serving people cold fries?
Why do leaders allow medicority? Why are we okay with our organization & those who represent our organization offering poor quality and less than our best?
Here are a few reasons why we settle and what we need to avoid:
It’s much easier on the front-end to ignore the cold, brown fries. “Maybe the customer won’t notice or won’t care. It’s easier to serve what’s in front of me than do a little bit of extra work to give my customer the best!”
- Hopefully they’ll settle for our mediocre children’s environment
- Hopefully they won’t run into one of our unfriendly, cold employees or volunteers
- Hopefully they won’t mind the bad & out-of-tune music
- Hopefully they won’t care our products are cheap, but overpriced
- Hopefully they will ignore our clutter and disorganization
It’s more convenient to serve cold fries than it is to take 3-minutes to cook a fresh order. It’s a gamble, but you come out on top if the customer doesn’t complain, right? But, if you gamble and lose and the customer isn’t willing to settle, it still requires the same amount of work on the back-end to make things right, but only after the customer’s perception of you and your organization takes a negative hit.
It’s convenient and easier to overlook areas of weakness, poor quality, tension, and mediocrity that needs addressing or correcting on the front-end, but when those things aren’t accepted by those you’re trying to reach, you won’t just have to make up ground to correct the problem, you’ll have to make up ground to restore the negative perception and reputation of your organization (and those who represent it).
The bigger issue isn’t a willingness to settle for mediocrity to hopefully save a few minutes of work on the front-end. It’s never just one incident that causes your team a few minutes of time and effort. The bigger issue is the culture and values of the organization. These are never one time issues; these issues reflect what the organization and its leaders are willing to accept and tolerate. It reflects what your company or church values. Where the organization must spend the most time and effort on the front-end is not cooking fresh, hot fries. They must invest the most time and effort instilling the organization’s values. If the organization values excellence and desires a culture of excellence where each team member offers God and their people (clients/customers/etc) their very best, it will require inconvenience on the front-end to teach and train their team to reflect those values in even the most mundane, daily routines.
Don’t compromise for the sake of convenience! The cost to your organization’s reputation is more than you may be willing to pay.
- Lack of Awareness:
Who likes having to be the complaining customer? No one I know. Sometimes people won’t tell you about their experience with your organization. We don’t always hear the complaints or the concerns verbalized to us so we can make the necessary changes. When your organization settles for mediocre, there’s a chance people won’t give you feedback about it. They won’t bring the cold, flimsy fries to your attention, but they will definitely express their displeasure. They will definitely remember their experience and they will either approve or disapprove of that experience with their feet. They’ll either approve by returning to your church or business, or they will disapprove by finding a place that doesn’t settle for poor quality, especially when it’s in your power to fix it.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Am I even aware of the quality my organization offers people?” My fries didn’t become cold, flimsy, and brown when they touched my table. The cook could have paid attention & noticed their condition. The lady who brought the food to my table could have paid attention and noticed the poor quality. Both of these employees could have been empowered to see a problem and be proactive to fix it. Either one of them could have said, “That doesn’t reflect our standards and it doesn’t represent the quality our restaurant promises our customers, let me fix that before it gets to the customer!” Instead the cold, brown fries passed through two sets of eyes from people who were okay with mediocrity.
We can’t rely on our customers to tell us where we are settling for mediocrity. We have to be aware of our own organization and we have to be proactive to fix what needs fixing.
What do you see in your organization? Can you see the areas where you or your team is settling for mediocrity? Do you see the areas where you have challenges? Or, are you so ingrained and familiar with your surroundings that you’re oblivious to the things that need improvement? After a while, brown fries look like fries; cold fries look like fries; flimsy fries look like fries, you can’t see the difference. Problems, challenges, and tensions are forgotten because they’ve always been there and they’re familiar now. If you’re having a hard time seeing what your organization is serving, try asking your customers for feedback. Ask a trusted friend from outside the organization to pay a visit with fresh eyes and an outsiders perspective to give you honest and constructive feedback. Don’t overlook what you offer people or you may find they overlook your organization.
- Calm over Turbulence:
Nicki and I went on our very first cruise for our 10th anniversary. Since I had never been on a cruise I didn’t know what to expect. After boarding the ship, we sat out on the top deck when suddenly I realized we were no longer at the dock and had moved quite a distance from where we boarded. The boat was so smooth I couldn’t even tell it was moving. That calmness didn’t last long. It seemed as soon as we lost sight of land the waters got more turbulent and the ship no longer moved peacefully. The boat rocked and we could feel it!
We heard several experienced cruisers say the wasters were abnormally rough. Let’s be honest, no one likes being on a ship in the middle of the ocean when it’s rocking in rough waters. No one likes to be on an airplane 30,000 feet in the air during rough turbulence. As much as I would have preferred calm waters, we learned it was necessary to go through some turbulence to get to the crystal clear tropical beaches of the Bahamas, St.Thomas, and St. Maarten.
It may be more convenient and comfortable to not rock the boat so you can stay in calm waters, but that’s not always possible. As leaders, we have to keep our destination in mind and play the long game. Where are we trying to get as an organization? To get our organization and team to our desired destination, we may have to go through turbulent waters to get there. We have to be willing to address issues that are preventing us from getting to our destination. We may have to be willing to tackle tension, strengthen weaknesses, and confront conflict to get our organization to the place where its serving quality rather than mediocrity.
You may be a mid-level team member with little to no authority, but if you know the ship’s destination and you see an iceberg in the way, you have to be willing to alert the right people to the iceberg, or no one gets to the desired destination. Eventually you all go down on a sinking ship.
You can’t always get to where you’re going by staying in calm waters. You may have to take a risk by telling the manager that the fries are flimsy and cold. It may rock the boat for some, but in the end everyone gets to the same destination, if they can navigate through the necessary rough waters, together.
As a consumer, I didn’t settle for mediocre. I requested fresh fries. My new order was fresh, hot, and delicious! The restaurant recovered and corrected the problem. We don’t always get this opportunity. As a leader, put the work in up front and make sure your team knows your organization’s values and culture so you don’t settle for mediocre.