Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You Get What You Settle For

Early in my leadership journey I was taught to never walk by a mistake. "If you walk by a deficiency and don't make a correction, you have just set the new standard," I was told by some wise Sergeant. Another mentor put it this way: You get what you settle for.

I was reminded of how important a leadership issue this is when I sat with my wife on a recent flight into Kansas City. We joined the crowd around us lamenting the poor soul whose bag was sitting on the tarmac. "Sucks to be them," we all thought.

Bags fall to the ground all the time. We all make mistakes. That wasn't the issue. The problem was the number of ground crew members who walked and drove by the bag without doing anything about it. No one stopped to pick it up or to call it in. They just drove around it. No one seemed to care.

Now I fly this airline all the time. And I know this is NOT their standard. But how many employees will drive by this mistake before it becomes the new normal? How many customers will watch employees who fail to take action before they go somewhere else?

Leaders must develop a culture that does not accept sub-standard performance...and is empowered to do something about it. They must lead by example in this area and root out those who say things like: It's not my job; I'm too busy; I'm not trained in that area; sucks to be them! Those people and those types of attitudes don't fit on any team.

Leaders cannot accept shortcomings without doing something (positive) about them. We must be willing and able to train, conduct debriefs (AARs), perform counseling, and make on the spot corrections that help subordinates understand the standard. And we must work tirelessly to cultivate the type of empowered workforce that never accepts anything less than perfection.

We can't settle for anything less. That is...Leader Business.

1 comment:

Marty said...

How true this can be ... that 'contextual pressures' - the force of the group being greater than 'coming up with a well reasoned choice' creates the 'unhealthy communication patterns' we later question, HOW THE HECK DID THIS HAPPEN??? It happened,in part,because we get what we settle for.

Thanks for the reminder Tom!

- Marty