Standards – where are yours?

I have recently been coaching some colleagues whose responsibilities are to look after 1000 people in some 100 stores. Each of the individuals I worked with looked after about 20 shops each, and these 20 shops make up an area. Some of these people were totally successful and could manage their area on 1 day a week. The remaining 4 days were pretty relaxed for them. However there were others who worked 15 hours a day with but half the success.

What makes the difference?

I asked this very question of each of the individuals I was coaching. One of the key replies was ‘standards’. If people know what standards are expected of them and what the consequences are if the standards are exceeded or missed, more often than not the standards are met.

When I got chatting to one of the most successful guys, I asked him, “Do you know where your standards originate from?” He said, “I was born in Zimbabwe when corporal punishment was in fashion. If you didn’t meet the required standards at school you would get a good beating”. He said, “Did it stop me breaking the rules? No, because I enjoyed flirting with danger. But I knew the consequences if I was caught. I owned up and took the beating because I knew if I tried to lie, blame or not take responsibility, the consequences would only compound and get far worse. This must be where my standards derive from.”

I asked him how this related to him, his work and private life, today. He replied,

“Children, family members as well as co workers need to understand the boundaries, what is acceptable and not acceptable.”

A child must wash their hands before a meal. If they don’t do it how long do you leave it before you notify them that you’re not happy with their behaviour? From what I have learnt, if there is just one mealtime when the child does not wash their hands, you immediately stop supper and make them wash. If this is related to a work situation, say where colleagues are required to shave and look smart and presentable, then at that moment they come in unshaven you send them straight back out to buy a razor.

On a personal level, if you bought tickets for a concert for you and a friend and your friend couldn’t make it. Should the friend leave you bearing the cost of the ticket, or reimburse you with an apology.

Where are your standards?

If a child, co-worker or partner is not coming up to the family or work standards, most people will ignore the problem. They know there will be conflict. They would rather go for short term pleasure (no conflict) rather than the short term pain of dealing with the problem? And so the bad behaviour continues.

Take a look at a commercial example:

One of the set company standards in a retail shop is that all colleagues must acknowledge the customers and mention a certain product. Some colleagues love doing this. Some do it because they have to. Some choose not to! If you were the manager of this retail shop where would your standards be? Would you go for short term pain and confront those that weren’t acknowledging the customers and mentioning the product? If you didn’t, I promise you, the problem only gets bigger and spirals out of all control.

The product doesn’t get mentioned therefore the product doesn’t get sold. The shop does not hit their target. At first there is no confrontation by the Area or Regional Manager and the shop is perceived to get away with it. The shop gets away with not hitting one target and think they can get away with not hitting others. They are on the slippery slope. Then other shops think they’ll follow suit.

After a year of decline the boss starts pressurising the Area Manager. The Area Manager starts feeling the strain, works more hours. His wife and family life become unhappier. He doesn’t see his children and lives under permanent stress! The stress takes its toll on his health…

The moral of the story? Always focus on the consequences of short-term pleasure i.e. not confronting and taking action NOW! You know things are not going to sort themselves out, they will only get worse.

What have you been putting up with for too long?

Where in your life do you need to act?

Where have you let your standards drop?

What have the consequences been?

What action are you going to take today?

If you ignore this warning what is the challenge going to be like in one year?

If you ignore the warning of 12 months what’s the problem going to be like in five years?

Are you living the life you deserve?