I wrote an article [^] recently about creating a strong development team. Complementary to that article I think it’s also important to build a team that strives for success. Where members of the team want to be the best. Where excellence is the determining factor in a project’s success. A strong team of developers who are striving to create the best solutions is capable of anything.

Certain individuals are content with muddling along without ever really breaking into a sweat. They get the job done but will never set the world alight or go out with all guns blazing. They are happy to be mediocre. Close is good enough. The definition of success for these people is “It works”.

I call this the Mediocre Mindset. They have low expectations and standards, and aren’t willing to put in the extra effort to create something really exciting and breathtaking. They don’t invest in themselves and don’t put in the effort to keep their skills up-to-date. They are happy using that technology from years ago. It keeps them ticking over and that’s good enough.

These people don’t push any boundaries, challenge the status quo, think outside the box or put in extra effort to achieve a goal. They don’t pull out all the stops and give it their all to meet a deadline. Accepting mediocrity as the standard for success will ultimately harm the business. It won’t take much for your competitors to beat you squarely when your goal is “It works”.

I would much rather have someone constantly questioning me, pushing me, challenging me. It is well known that in many sports the key to getting better is to participate with someone who is better than you. As a cyclist I know this only too well. If you cycle with people who ride at the same pace as you, you will simply continue to ride at the same pace. You won’t get any faster. If you cycle with people who ride faster than you, then you’ll get faster as you’ll be forced to keep up with them. You may struggle at first, and it may take several weeks / months of hard effort and training, but eventually, you will be able to keep up with the faster riders. The improvements can be made if you have the desire to make them.

This same analogy applies equally well to software development (and probably most areas of human endeavour).

Surround yourself with people who won’t accept anything less than the best as the definition of success. People who will strive to create the best solutions, will invest their time and energies researching new and emerging technologies, who propose new and exciting solutions and bring fresh ideas to the table. I want to see fire in someone’s belly. I want to see their eyes light up when talking about a project.

Is there a better way to create that application? How can that legacy application be improved? How can we speed up that process? Can that manual task be automated in any way? These are people who are constantly looking for ways to improve the working environment, processes, tools and technologies.

What I cannot bear to hear is “Well that’s the way it’s always worked”. As if that was somehow a sufficient explanation for never improving anything. By the same argument, why bother to drive to work, when you could get a horse and cart. After all, that works too right? The difference of course, is that one can make the same journey in much less time than the other. If time isn’t a factor, then by all means, use a horse and cart to get to that meeting.

If you have individuals who meet the definition of the Mediocre Mindset then try pushing them, challenging them. See how they respond. Maybe they have never truly been challenged and therefore adopted and cultivated an attitude of low expectation. By pushing them and challenging them they may respond accordingly and rise up to the challenges you are giving them. In which case you have successfully raised them up from mediocrity. If they don’t respond, then you may be in trouble. Maybe they need smaller challenges and more gentle pushing.

I believe that everyone can improve themselves. Everyone can push that little bit harder. Meet ever greater challenges. Whilst some people may already be highly responsive to such an environment, even those that are totally new can become supreme advocates if coaxed and coached in the right manner.

Given the right encouragement and positive feedback, people can become inspired to achieve greater goals beyond their normal expectations.

If this article was helpful to you, please do hit the 💚 button below. Thanks!

A father, cyclist, vegetarian, atheist, geek and multiple award winning technical author. Loves real ale, fine wine and good music. All round decent chap.

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