The Decision

The Decision, The Standard & The Lesson

What do you do when you come across someone doing the wrong thing?  The easy answer is to say something to that person.  But although this is the easy answer, it is far from easy to make that decision in the split second you notice a problem.  You then have to run through the dialog in your head about how receptive the person will be to your correction, whether you are correct, how you should approach the issue, is it worth the effort to correct, and many other questions and scenarios your brain comes up with.  Then perhaps you decide to fix the problem.  Has there been a clear standard established? What if you are wrong? Or what if you are right, but there should be a change to the standard?  Are you willing to listen and learn something?  That entire drama-filled paragraph is why it is essential to have the foresight to understand three things.

The Decision: 

I’ve heard many times that you don’t choose to be a leader.  Or that the best leaders are the ones that don’t want to be leaders.  I say that is nonsense!  I find it hard to believe that people are accidental leaders.  I’m sure it happens, but I’m willing to bet it is extremely rare.  I think you should want to lead.  Leadership encompasses so much that wanting to be a leader is only the beginning.  Taking care of people, making decisions, critical thinking, empathetic behavior, intelligence, honesty, competent, forward-looking or strategic, and many other things are great traits and actions for a leader.  But the best thing a leader can do is to decide to be a leader.  In any or all capacities.  Deciding to lead is the starting point, and it will open you up to a world of tough actions that lie ahead.  What do you do once you have decided to lead?  Determine the standard.

The Standard:

Everyone has standards but telling someone what your standards are is much more difficult.  A leader must be able to do this.  Perhaps not only verbally but through your actions.  Standards are what you use to guide your actions.  If someone in your organization does something wrong, what do you do about it?  As a leader, you must have that internal discussion and know what you should do.  What behaviors are expected in your organization and how do you articulate those behaviors?  Conversations.  Conversations are vital to the thorough understanding of concepts, and without conversations, we are limited to one-way communication which is a terrible way to establish standards. Once you have the standards figured out, you are good, right?  Wrong.

The Lesson:

The problem with experience is that is can create complacency, or at the very worst it can create arrogance and ego.  With arrogance and ego, the leader believes they know exactly what they are doing and no longer need to listen. This is why it is important to understand that a leader always has a lesson to learn.  There is always a better idea out there.  If you feel like you have arrived at the peak of your leadership mountaintop, there is a good chance you have only forgotten to look around.  You will always gain value from a different perspective, and when you don’t listen, you limit options.  Always look for the lesson you should learn, I guarantee there is one there.

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You are the Standard of Performance

Your team’s performance will average around the leader’s standards. It is far too easy to say the team members are not performing to the standard, or they are poorly trained, or the supervisors are bad. But before any of that is evaluated, the leader must be looked at. When you are assessing the performance of a team the first place to start is the leader.

As the leader of a team or organization, your standard is the foundation for how the others will measure themselves and others. As you deploy your standards, the rest of the team will average around those standards. The leader needs to consistently evaluate themselves and ensure they never lower their standards just to make sure people can easily achieve them. But you must also be humble enough that you can admit it if your standards are too high. As I’ve written about previously, Perfection is dumb, and not a sustainable standard to expect. If you expect perfection, you can almost guarantee you need to adjust it. And it needs to be corrected quickly because the longer this expectation is allowed, the more demoralizing it becomes.

You will know if your standards are right when you have a few people that are not quite meeting them all the time, the majority meeting them consistently and a few others exceeding them regularly. As you get to this stage, you can increase the standards to move the team to a higher average.  You will also want to decide if those not meeting the standard consistently are worth keeping around.

Once the leader has established robust standards, he or she needs to evaluate the rest of the team. The leader needs to inspire the supervisors to hold high standards. The supervisors are the most important piece to this puzzle. They will be expected to take the leader’s standards and hold that line with the rest of the employees. When the supervisors are empowered and taken care of, they will perform to the leader’s expectations. Micromanaging them will only get them to do enough to not be fired.

The bottom line here is to know that your people will average around your standards, so if you have low standards, so will your people. Also, understand there will never be a time that everyone will always meet the standard, but you must hold him or her accountable and keep the standard high.

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