Leadership Lessons: Holding Yourself and Others to a Higher Standard

by February 2, 2014 02/2/14
Standards - Will Work For A Living

There seems to be some confusion on understanding the purpose behind standards. A standard is a level of quality and/or attainment. It means you’ve been measured against an established idea or criterion.

At a recent class, one of the students came up to me to discuss a conversation with other students during one of the lunch breaks. Before we get into the details of the conversation, as a leader you want to set the example and not be the example. This doesn’t mean you set unrealistic standards, just that you set high standards. The attainment of excellence should be everyone’s work ethic and in my experience that has proven true. So you take that motivation and marry it up with high standards and the final product is excellence.

When you fail to set high expectations, then the net result is an attitude that low expectations are good enough and all that’s expected, or worse, standards aren’t valid and therefore ignored. That has an eroding, or decaying effect on a high work ethic, one that I believe is fleeting in today’s landscape.

As a leader, if you fail to meet the standards, you send a message the standards are not important. Then, being the leader you are, if you fail to enforce the standards, you send a message the standards aren’t important. You must strive to achieve both in a leadership role, more importantly, be consistent.

The problem I see is that when there’s a decay of work ethics, the demand for high standards and then the lack of leadership at enforcing established standards. This creates a slippery slope where it seems “easier” to just lower the standards or look the other way. That road is filled with dangers and once you start down that path, it’s incredibly difficult to find your way back to high standards.

Consistency is a major factor when it comes to standards. You have to hold everyone, even yourself to the same standards. If you are not willing to live up to the same standards as a leader, how can you expect those around you to do the same thing. You want them to recognize the integrity of the standards first, but also how the standards are the same across the board. Dumbing down or lowering the standards because you can’t enforce them, only signals poor leadership skills and not the lack of ability to meet the standards.

The whole purpose behind standards is they’re a reliable benchmark to judge and evaluate performance or skill. While some standards may not be developed in the best manner, it’s a start. Standards should give those who struggle a gauge for performance and keep those with solid skills honest. That’s what I appreciate about good standards, I know when I’m not putting out, when I’m not giving it an honest effort. While standards can bruise the egos of some, for the majority it should be a reality check, conferring your hard work or in some cases smacking you in the face to work harder.

Some complain about our standards at Trident Concepts, but I have the belief that if you set high expectations for folks, they will rise to the occasion. I’m honest with everyone and let them know early on I will hold them to higher standards. It isn’t because I’m being a jerk, but because I believe you will dig deep to achieve them. Even if you don’t believe, I do and that’s what separates us from everyone else.

So, back to that earlier story about some students and observers complaining about our standards. One of the students stood up and laid it out there. Don’t bitch because you can’t meet the standards, don’t when there are folks who want to meet them. If you can’t meet them, that’s your problem, get out of the way of those who do. We occasionally get criticism, but I choose to let the results speak for themselves. Folks who meet the standards are dialed in and I enjoy watching them perform, they step up and out perform their peers. Kind of hard to argue after that.

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Jeff Gonzales was a decorated and respected US Navy SEAL, serving as an operator and trainer who participated in numerous combat operations throughout the world. He now uses his modern warfare expertise as President of Trident Concepts, LLC., a battle proven company specializing  in weapons, tactics and techniques to meet the evolving threat. Bringing the same high-intensity mindset, operational success and lessons learned from NSW to their training programs, TRICON has been recognized as an industry leader by various federal, state and local units. Organizations interested in training with TRICON can call 928-925-7038 or visit www.tridentconcepts.com for more information.


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