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You Stand for What You Tolerate: Two Intolerable Stances for Any Leader

May 27, 2013

Tolerance has a clear definition and requires clear standards.  When you live with weak tolerance, you live weak.  When you live with strong tolerance, others become strong.  Any leader must have standards to define the limits of tolerance.  Those standards assist in accomplishing vision and mission in both short and long term initiatives.

Who said it, “You stand for what you tolerate.”?  I found it well said in Marlo Thomas’, The Right Words At  The Right Time Vol 2. Many would say, “You get what you tolerate”.  But I like the prior phrase.

The ancient proverbial Solomon wrote, “Out of the fullness of your heart, your mouth speaks.”  That is pretty close.  He wrote more than a few other wisdoms on the need for discipline and vision.  You stand for what you tolerate.

There are two intolerable stances for any leader.

-Tolerance without standard.  How often do we act in fear in our organizations and in front of those we are called to lead by example?  Someone points an accusing finger at another’s actions and we react in fear of some unknown legality or loss of face in the masses.  No leader can lead long without standards.  An issue arises and we allow weakness to make decisions because we do not have dedicated enough time prior to establish our priorities and principles.

A computer installation for a large company hit a standstill.  Managers had been pleading for right electrical backup in an area plagued with storms, but the company standard of “tolerate failure until it costs a fortune or breaks a visible law” was in play.  Now it was getting ready to cost a fortune.  Every worker was doing something different and the manager responsible could not direct the mess effectively.  Yes, it did cost a fortune to get out of the mess, but standards based risk policy would have deemed the situation intolerable well before the failure and have avoided major expense and exhaustion of staff.  You stand for what you tolerate and you get what you tolerate

-Standard without tolerance.  This one will strangle the best of leadership and organizations.  “Well this is the decision of the board and we will implement with no questions.”  Of course, no decision has thought through every implication or situation that will transpire.  Thinking people were dispatched to manage through the muddle.  Have you ever made this mistake.

A successful company was hard at work following the directions of the consultant.  Why would  this group not just comply?  These manufacturing based principles must work in service sectors, too, right?  Wrong.  They would work with some revision, but not straight out of the guru box.  Smart managers needed to be allowed to apply the principles in a slightly different manner than the book.  The result was a struggle.  And with wisdom, in this instance, the team managers prevailed and were allowed to make right modifications.  The result was a 40% decrease in costs alongside a service turnaround deliverable that went from 10 days to 2 days on a regular basis.  A strict adherence to the standard would have brought everything to a standstill and crushed the teams involved.  Team members were energized and worked for years coming up with improvement after improvement because tolerance was built into the standard.

Summary:  You stand for what you tolerate.  You get what you tolerate.  These two intolerable stances can cost you major progress and undermine morale and loyalty.  They are quite common.  Take a few minutes this week to mull over your standards and ensure you haven’t violated these.  If you have, you are suffering now.  The evidence may not have surfaced.  It will.  And it will cost you in ways you would not tolerate if you realized it.

 

Let us help you.  This is what we do.

Start a conversation.  phil@shepherdok.com

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