The football coaches at Utah’s Union High School decided to make a bold decision. With reports of poor grades, cyber-bullying, and attitude problems, the coaches were unwilling to support the declining behavior of their team. So right before the big homecoming game, they decided to suspend the entire group. Every team member was instructed to hand in his beloved jersey and forfeit the upcoming competition.
These savvy coaches next allowed the young men to earn their way back onto the team. New captains were elected, and student athletes were required to perform two days of community service instead of football practice. Coaches demanded the players attend a character building class and also established a regular group study session. So far, every team member is on track to earning his way back onto the field.
Head coach Matt Labrum reset the standard of acceptable behavior. He clearly articulated what was needed, provided support to develop the vital skills, and raised the bar on what was expected. Players knew exactly what choices were required to remain on the team.
We can all learn a lot from Coach Labrum.
In companies, organizations, communities, and families, the standards for acceptable performance dictate behavior, and ultimately results. If a business leader looks the other way at ethical corner-cutting, the integrity of the whole organization declines. If elected officials accept laziness, apathy, and indifference, communities devolve.
The best leaders set high standards and then hold themselves and their teams accountable for meeting them. They refuse to tolerate mediocrity, realizing that every overlooked infraction deteriorates the vibrancy of their organization. They also personally embrace these standards, and model the behavior they wish to see in others. Saying one thing and doing another completely undermines any well-intentioned philosophy.
If you don’t proactively set and maintain standards in your own life, a gravitational force will automatically bring your baseline close to zero. When members of a society accept the unacceptable and look the other way, civilization crumbles. In contrast, you have the opportunity to raise the bar for yourself and those around you by having the discipline to demand the best.
Think about what’s acceptable to you today. Do you poison your body with alcohol, drugs, and junk food? Time for a new standard. Do you accept cruel and hurtful communications in your personal relationships? Time for a new standard. Do you look the other way when team members fail to deliver commitments in your business? Time for a new standard.
People and organizations perform according to the standards they embrace. It’s time to hit the reset button and raise your standards if you’re looking to achieve at a higher level and leave a bigger impact on those around you.
If setting higher standards can turn around the behavior of wayward teenage boys, think what a difference it can make for you. Now that is a victory worth fighting for.