The Heretic Logo


The Heretic is a free dispatch delivering insights into what it takes to lead into & in the unknown. For entrepreneurs, corporate irritants and change makers. Raw, unfiltered and opinionated.

be radical.

Sep 11th, 2023 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Satisfactory Underperformance

Recently, I spoke with Professor David Beatty on the Disrupt Disruption podcast. David is a globally recognized authority on board governance. Simply put, he trains top-tier executives to become even more effective board members. During our chat, he humorously yet pointedly remarked that many executives eventually settle into a state of “satisfactory underperformance.”

“Satisfactory underperformance” describes a plateau where people aren’t necessarily failing but aren’t excelling either. The concept echoes the “Peter Principle,” a term coined in 1969 by Laurence J. Peter. It posits that people rise through an organization’s ranks based on their past performance until they reach a level where they’re no longer competent. This happens because the skills that make someone effective in one role don’t always transfer to another.

There are various factors that could make this principle true or false. However, most of us can likely identify at least one manager operating at this level of “satisfactory underperformance.” It’s an unfortunate situation, affecting both those who report to such managers and those who find themselves promoted beyond their skill set.

To ensure the well-being of our companies, our teams, and ourselves, it’s imperative that we steer clear of this pitfall. The danger of settling into “satisfactory underperformance” is real, and it’s a disservice to not only ourselves but also to the organizations we serve and the teams we lead. It’s essential that we continually reassess our own performance and that of those around us, striving for more than just satisfactory results. Let’s challenge ourselves to break free from this plateau by engaging in continuous learning, seeking feedback, and applying our skills dynamically across different contexts. After all, the cost of complacency can be far greater than we might imagine.

So the next time you find yourself or someone else coasting, remember: good enough rarely is. Let’s aim higher.

1,274 Posts and Counting.
Don't miss the next post. Sign up now!

Aug 31st, 2023

No Shortcuts to Mastery: Guy Kawasaki’s Raw Truth on Getting Great

One of my most treasured memories from my stint at Singularity University came from the day I invited former Apple evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, to the Graduate Studies Program back in 2015. As fate would have it, we managed to record his session, which you can still watch here.

That day, Guy captivated Singularity University’s students for a riveting hour and a half, unpacking the insights and frameworks from his bestselling book, The Art of the Start 2.0. He concluded his presentation with an unfiltered Q&A session. About 88 minutes in, he’s asked about the secret to his...

read more…

Aug 24th, 2023

Marketing is Values, Not Noise

Marketing. The exciting world of pithy slogans, catchy jingles and flashy ads. But the hidden truth of it all is that it’s not about that – at all. It’s about values.

We live in a cacophonous age, filled with relentless chatter, in-your-face advertising, and a never-ending barrage of information. It’s like standing in the middle of Times Square during New Year’s Eve, every single day. This world is complicated and noisy, to say the least.

So, where does that leave you, especially those of you trying to get your message across?

You might be tempted to shout louder, make a bolder...

read more…

Aug 17th, 2023

Always Run, Never Walk: Unleashing Creativity through Action

I’m sure you’ve been there: Staring at your screen, not knowing where to begin. In situations like this, I often tell myself that I should just grab a beverage and a snack to get the creative juices flowing. So, I get up, walk to the kitchen, open the fridge… and wait for inspiration to strike. Naturally, it usually doesn’t.

The other day, I read an article about the approach a renowned film director takes when he’s stuck on a scene. Instead of wrestling with how the scene should work in his head, perhaps whiteboarding it with his team, or—God forbid—brainstorming...

read more…

Aug 12th, 2023

Investing vs. Spending Time: The Secret Sauce to a Meaningful Life

We all know the old adage of “time is money.” It’s been beaten into our brains, turned into motivational posters (soaring eagles and all), and slapped onto coffee mugs. But let’s dive into something slightly less cliché and a whole lot more meaningful: the distinction between spending your time and investing it.

Spending time is like grabbing a quick burger on the way to somewhere else. You’re consuming empty calories (and a lot of them). Watching that random YouTube video or mindlessly scrolling through social media. Sure, it’s enjoyable, but does it actually do anything for you?

Investing time, on...

read more…

Aug 2nd, 2023

Don’t Make An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

In the land of startups, a baffling and remarkably persistent trend exists: the obsession with feature overload. If you look at any startup pitch deck, you’ll inevitably find the infamous slide featuring a competitor/feature checklist. This slide sole reason of existence is to brag about all the features you have over your competition: The more green checkmarks, the better.

And herein lies the fundamental flaw: People don’t want more features, they want better products. Just think about your favorite products or services – I bet you, that you love them not because they have a huge number of features, but because...

read more…

Jul 21st, 2023

Don’t Be a Career

As so many of my posts start with, “Recently, I spoke with a friend of mine…” this one does too. The other day, a friend reached out and asked for some “career advice” – he recently moved on from his old job and is currently in the exciting-yet-dreaded phase of “figuring it out.”

After my usual disclaimer of “don’t follow any of my advice as I never had a grand plan for my career and always just ended up doing what seemed fun and challenging in the moment,” we got to discuss the concept of a “career” in and of...

read more…

Jul 13th, 2023

You're Not the Star: The Unselfish Perspective in Leadership

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at a fascinating conference filled with diverse minds, pioneering ideas, and vibrant discussions. However, as I witnessed the unfolding of various presentations, something struck me: a handful of presenters seemingly harbored a misconception about who was the real star of the show.

In every exchange, every interaction, every shared moment of wisdom, the spotlight should fall not on the speaker, but on the audience. Leadership, after all, is not about standing on a pedestal; it’s about elevating others to a platform where they can shine.

When I write these blog posts, or when...

read more…

Jul 6th, 2023

Value Statements Are (Typically) Useless

Enron, the company which made accounting fraud an Olympic-level sport, had, like so many other companies, a values statement – in Enron’s case, it was “Respect, Integrity, Communication, and Excellence.”

Much has been written about the massive (and, in hindsight, incredibly obvious) disconnect between Enron’s values and actions. And much of the blame is typically put on Enron’s people.

But here’s the thing – those values are also completely useless (or, to be more precise, painfully obvious). It might say something about a company if it needs to remind its people to treat each other and its clients with “Respect, Integrity, Communication,...

read more…

Jun 28th, 2023

Hiring for the Unknown

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis publishes the Global Economic Policy Uncertainty Index with data going back nearly 40 years. Without going into the details of how this index comes about, the one thing it will tell you with certainty is that uncertainty is on the rise and likely continues to do so for years to come.

With this comes a profound challenge for any leader: How do you lead into and in the unknown? And for anyone hiring – how do you hire and set up your people for this challenge?

Ironically many companies still hire people...

read more…

→ Explore all 1,274 Posts in the Archive!

1,274 Posts and Counting.
Don't miss the next post. Sign up now!