Set your Standards high

Part of being a good leader is being able to set the ideal standards for your team to work towards. Think of a high performing Olympic team. They are going to set their standards very high, with the knowledge that they may not reach those standards, but without having the bar raised particularly high, and pushing themselves to achieve their personal best, they run the risk of not being competitive enough. A team with high standards, works towards achieving them and if they fall short, they collaborate and communicate to figure out what’s working, what’s not working, what can be tweaked and changed, so they can move forward with purpose and a growth mindset. In the process they continually think outside the box to reach their high standards and keep pushing themselves to achieve more.

In businesses, particularly those with a lot of processes and procedures, some leaders tend to lean towards keeping the bar low, and setting lower than ideal standards.

I see it happen often; a manager sets the standards for his or her team low enough that the team will meet them more often than not. They do it because it is easier and allows them to follow the path of least resistance in that they can avoid having the difficult conversations they need to have in order to raise the standards of the team. The trade-off though, is having a team that performs to low standards, and possibly not achieving what they could if the standards were set higher.

This setting of low standards is often ingrained in our work cultures. The standards get set, and as they are pretty low, if they don’t get met, people face the wrath of consequences and reprimand if they are not met. But they aren’t pushed, they aren’t particularly challenged and the result is often a low performing team, not incentivised to achieve their personal best. 

Reach higher, raise the bar 

There needs to be as shift in the way we think about this. Instead of having low standards, the ideal approach would be setting them higher, encourage people to aim high, even too high, and then recognising that they won’t always be met. When they are not met, being prepared to have the conversations about why and how to reach them next time, removing the reprimand from the equation. This goes hand in hand with allowing more experimentation and mistakes at work.

If we don’t do things differently and try new ways of doing things, nothing changes and businesses become stuck in their ways and stagnant. 

This approach also requires you to constantly review the standards you set; what worked one month may need to be adjusted the next. 

What are some of the standards you set for your team? These can be as simple as rules around meetings; no one can be late, the meeting organiser must have and stick to an agenda. They might be around values and quality of work, rules around meeting deadlines.

One of the best ways to ensure you set your standards right is to communicate your expectations really clearly. Make sure everyone knows exactly what is expected of them; from specific tasks, to timelines.

Could your meetings be improved? Prepare a document or email or meeting to go through the specifics of exactly what the expectations around meetings are. Then need to run on time, there needs to be agendas, everyone should try to participate, once a week everyone needs to meet in person for a weekly meeting, the meeting organizer needs to send a follow up email outlining actionable outcomes and decisions made in the meeting, these need to be filed somewhere everyone can reach etc. 

Could your communication platforms benefit from clarification? Outline a communications policy so everyone is on the same page – emails for all day-to-day communication, team chats for specific lines of communication, meetings for projects with more strategic focus, phone calls only for urgent tasks, etc… so everyone knows where they stand when it comes to company communication. 

Have you set the standards for the values you want your team to uphold? How can you do this to ensure the values are upheld and reinforced in the day to day operations of your team? 

Setting your standards low will result in sub-optimal work. Where could you do with setting higher standards and embracing the conversations that need to happen to keep them high? 

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