The standard we walk past is the standard we accept


If we are in business or are responsible for a team of people, we want that team to be as effectiveness as possible right?  We want the members of that team to be engaged, motivated, innovative, able to work without constant supervision, able to communicate effectively with each other and ultimately, we want them performing to the best of their ability. 

That goes without question.  But what if we are struggling to achieve that?

What if the intention is there, but the results we are getting are not a reflection of that?

Why is that?

Creating a culture that nurtures high performance can be harder than we might think and sometimes it is the seemingly little things; the things we may not even have conscious awareness of, that can have the biggest impact on our results.  Take the quote at the start of this blog:

“The standard we walk past is the standard we accept”

This is a quote made famous by Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison, who was a senior officer in the Australian Army and held the role of Chief of Army for 4 years between 2011 and 2015.  Now what does it have to do with creating a high performing culture in our business or workplace?

“One bad egg has the capacity to destroy all the good that everyone else brings to the table and it becomes imperative that that is not allowed to happen.”  

Well it’s my experience that one of the things that is often missing from a work environment is clearly defined standards and expectations.  Standards being the personal standards we hold ourselves accountable to; and expectations being what we expect from those around us.  Without laying this on the table there is huge potential for conflict, and we all know that conflict is not a function of a highly performing team.

Standards and more importantly expectations are not something we should be confusing with more tangible metrics like performance targets; goals and KPIs.  Yes, these are things expected of us, but in this case, we are talking about expectations around personal behavior; attitude; how we do things.  There might be someone who is blitzing their tangible performance targets for example and out performing their colleagues; but if they are also a person who arrives 10 minutes late; stays for smoko that little bit longer than everyone else; or lets others pick up their slack…is that someone we would rate as contributing effectively to a high performing team culture?

The standard we walk past is the standard we accept…

So, what is this really saying?

It is of paramount importance that our teams are made up of team players.  One bad egg has the capacity to destroy all the good that everyone else brings to the table and it becomes imperative that that is not allowed to happen.  Walking past, ignoring, keeping quiet, keeping the peace…when there is someone not living up to the expectations of the team, is accepting that that behavior is OK.  We need to consider therefore what message that is sending to the rest of the workplace and to external stakeholders about “how things work around here?”

As a business owner or team leader it is essential to ensure everyone not only has high personal standards that they hold themselves accountable to; but also that everyone knows the standards that are expected of them from the business; what happens when they are breached and that behavior that falls outside of those expectations will not be tolerated.

All sounding a lot like common sense, right? 

Still not seeing the impact that NOT paying attention to this has on the culture of the team?

Well aside from the obvious, when inappropriate behavior might be against a particular person; the damage goes much deeper.

Lack of trust.

The standard we walk past is the standard we accept…

When there is someone on our team who is not upholding the personal standards expected of them and that behavior is not called out; then that is sending the message that leadership do not care.  It might sound harsh but stop and think about it.  If we say we value x, y and z and expect a, b and c from our team; but when someone falls outside of that and it is not dealt with, it sends the message that all the talk about values and standard and expectations is tick box and exactly that…just talk.

And if that is “just talk,” what else is?

That question alone creates doubt and from doubt, breeds distrust – the killer of high performance.

So, what can we do?

If you are a business owner or senior leader who is struggling to create the environment where your team are engaged, motivated, innovative…take a look at what you’re letting happen; take a look at what you’re accepting; take a look at what your team are accepting and ask yourself “what message are we sending here?”