Chip Conley has written a great book called PEAK – How great companies get their mojo from Maslow. In it he gives grave warning of the dangers of whelmers.
According to Chip there are three types of recruit in your organisation.
There are the over-whelmers – those people that ‘over-whelm’ you with their energy, skill, passion and enthusiasm. These people are what you need. They provide the foundations on which excellent can be built. However you will need to work hard, very hard, to recruit and retain them. These people have choices about where they work – so why should they choose to stick with you?
Then there are the under-whelmers – those that leave you distinctly unimpressed. According to Chip these don’t constitute a real problem either – because they are easily recognised and managed. As a consequence they either perform or get fired. I only wish it were this simple – but I do get the point. Under performance is easily recognised and can then be managed if you have the courage and commitment to do so.
The real dangers are those people that neither over nor under whelm. These are the whelmers. Their work is OK without being great. Customers are satisfied without being thrilled. Colleagues have kind of got used to the mediocrity. And the over-whelmers will not want to be any where near them as they sap energy and enthusiasm. They are passion vampires.
And this is the pernicious culture killer – mediocrity. If the whelmers are allowed to carve out a quiet life of mediocrity they will drag the culture of your organisation down to their level.
In the words of the legendary Van Morrison:
“You gotta fight every day to keep mediocrity at bay”.