Ordinary or Extraordinary – No Decision

The following was provided by guest contributor, Tom Heuer, the Richard A. Forsythe Chair Of Entrepreneurship, at Miami of Ohio University. Think about the message. It may forever change the way you do things going forward.

Ordinary – a word everyone disdains, but a condition most people accept. Crazy – maybe. Recently, I had invited a student to my office for a coaching session. After a few pleasantries, I informed the student that he was having a “very ordinary” semester. This statement didn’t faze him in the least. Concerned, I followed with “why doesn’t this assessment upset you.” He retorted “how much harder would I have to work for extraordinary and will it be worth it.”   My only response was – “you don’t want ordinary ever to be associated with you.”   After a long pause and no response, I scratched my head and ended the coaching session. Ordinary or Extraordinary – why would anyone choose to be ordinary?

Ordinary is fraught with complacency. Complacency is dull and easy. Extraordinary requires effort and passion. Personal effort and finding your passion is always hard work. Complacency seeks the status quo; it desires to be comfortable. There are no challenges waiting for ordinary. In fact, no challenges are being sought by ordinary. They want to burrow in and wake up every day to a routine of mundane tasks. And ordinary is painstakingly pleased with their tenured skills and expertise. Leaving themselves and others behind is an ever-present reality for this large group of people. And there are so many ordinaries walking aimlessly around the business world today.

So, who is responsible for igniting these complacent nomads?   And is it even possible to ignite a group committed to underperforming? Our experience with college students, young professionals, middle managers, sales and business executives tells us that every individual is responsible for their brand – ordinary or extraordinary. Life ends up being a series of choices.   Far too often the choice ends up being the easy way – the way requiring less turbulence and minimal effort.   Greatness is not handed to anyone. The complacency problem is licked personally only when passion and vision are evident in individuals. Ordinary takes full root when a person lacks the ambition to embark on the journey. Extraordinary is possible when importance of passion and vision is understood and becomes the catalyst for success. On a side note – all successful entrepreneurs that I have worked with understand the importance of this exercise. They know passion/vision is imperative for a winning start-up.

So, what is the role of business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders in igniting the possibilities inside complacent employees?

  • First of all, arousing complacent employees is a skill set this group must possess. You will have people who lack motivation and must know how to specifically excite each individual. Some will need to know the vision; others will need coaching; and others will need to be encouraged. Your organization’s success will be secure if you can motivate your employee’s to do the best work of their lives every single day.
  • Employees must be very clear about the future direction of the organization. Clarity is important for people to snap out of ordinary and understand the skills/expertise needed to be relevant in the company and industry.
  • People need to believe that their leaders/owners care about them. It is the leaders job to establish the work culture. So, create an environment where people want to come to work every day and thrive in their roles. How? Just get out of your office. Find out what it is like to work in your company, your department or your start-up. Would you want to work there? Does it foster ordinary? Are you engaged when you walk around? Answer these questions honestly and then, do something about it.

Ordinary is a formula for personal and corporate mediocrity. Extraordinary is the choice of a lifetime!


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