The Dangers of Tolerating Low Standards

Many times, the reason why an organization’s culture starts to go off in the wrong direction is because its leader is tolerating certain behaviors that they previously were not tolerating. 

One example: It used to be unacceptable for people to not show up on time to your morning huddle. But now as the organization’s grown, sometimes people come in three minutes late or five minutes late or 10 minutes late, maybe only on Tuesdays or maybe on Fridays or whatever. But before you know it, that standard no longer exists. 

As those standards start to erode, that also starts to change the culture. And in these cases, you know how it happened. You just hired somebody that just so happened to show up a little bit late, and then another person did, and then another person did — but they were never checked, so now the organization as a whole sees it as acceptable to show up whenever you want. 

Often, the culture erodes because of who you hire, but the culture also erodes because of who you don’t fire

If you want to really maintain culture, show me who you’re firing. If you’re tolerating things and you’re keeping people way past their expiration date, before you know it, you start to see standards erode and then the culture erodes.

I had this conversation with somebody the other day. They asked how to maintain a level of savagery across a particular team in their firm

I told them to consider professional sports. 

Let’s say you walk into the locker room at the University of Alabama and you say, “Oh man, do we really have to practice this hard?” — they look at you like you had horns on your head. 

If you say, “Man, can we just take a day off today? Can we just take a break?” — that kind of mentality would get pushed out real quick. 

But the problem is that if that type of mentality comes into your organization and people start to say, “Hey, you know what? Maybe they’re right. Maybe we should take it easy. Maybe we should serve pizza. Maybe we should have beer on tap. Everyone do whatever the hell they want, wherever they want.”

If you let them do that — no checks and balances, no accountability, no targets, because people say, “I don’t like accountability. It makes me uncomfortable.” — before you know it, you start appeasing that. 

And guess what? Your organization goes from elite to mediocre to bottom of the barrel. 

How did that happen? It’s because you started to tolerate those types of individuals and those types of mindsets. 

You have to set the tone. You have to set the standard. 

The reason why on professional sports teams people come in and become aligned immediately is because if somebody comes in and says, “Oh man, is it always like this?” they turn to you and say, “Yep, and that’s why we’re the best.”

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