Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for March, 2008

It’s not about the policy, it’s about the standard you set

As a leader, the standard you set will far outweigh any policy or rule that you, or anyone else, may dictate or document. And although the following example I offer is a simple one, in my experience even the most complex documented requests or stated expectations will be trumped by what you allow (i.e., the standard). 

As for that simple example: You may have stated or written clearly that you expect your team to be on time for your 9 o’clock staff meetings. However, the first time you start the meeting at 9:10am because you wanted to be sure all had arrived, you immediately set a new standard: Getting here 10 minutes late for our staff meeting is fine—even acceptable.  

I find that regardless of what policy or rule may be set, we tend to behave according to what we can get away with without consequence. Consequences may be as basic as a follow-up call from you looking for that report that is late, or your starting that meeting promptly and having those who are late miss out on information.   

It’s tough to have policies and standards consistently aligned. But even if they’re not aligned, I believe we’ll be more effective leaders if we understand the difference between the two. 

One question reaps valuable answers

Q: If you had the power to change just one thing in our organization, what might it be, and how would you go about it?

If you’re in a leadership position, this is a great question to ask of your employees during your one-on-ones. Or, you can ask it of a team through an email survey. You may want to provide the question before your meeting, or offer a target date to submit an answer to allow individuals the time to think it through, before answering.

Common themes among the answers you receive will offer great food for thought as you identify areas needing your attention or leadership.

If you’re an individual contributor, who hasn’t been asked this question, but who might be interested in answering it, I encourage you to take the initiative and do just that. Generally, concerns are well received from an employee, when he or she also provides a full recommendation for solution. —Especially if the employee is willing to participate in the solution.