7 Reasons Why Leaders and their Companies Lower their Standards

I’m writing this blog 30,000 feet in the air on a flight from Atlanta to Chicago. I had the honor of sitting next to a soldier who’s in the Army serving in Afghanistan and he inspired me to write this blog on leadership. We were talking about the importance of leaders setting high standards for their team or organization. That got me thinking about why some companies maintain high standards and others let it slide.

Question of the week: why do companies lower their standards?

Here are the main reasons that I see that organizations lower the bar on their expectations:

1. The leadership has lost its hunger

One of the reasons why organizations lower their standards is because management is no longer as hungry as they once were. The leadership will usually still sound driven when giving speeches at their annual conference, but you can see that their actions lack the ambition of their words. Sometimes people who reach the top forget the push for greatness that got them there. They are content with attaining a C-level title, a Mercedes and Country Club membership; they lose the fire in their belly that they once had in the hunt for greatness.

2. People at the top forget how work gets done

Once leaders are no longer in the trenches, they sometimes forget how to fight.  Sheltered behind their titles, they have become too far removed from the daily battles that must be fought in order to be victorious. In business, earning a leadership position should mean increased responsibility and courage, but it sometimes has the opposite effect, bringing detachment from the day to day work necessary to compel the organization forward.

3. They turn into people pleasers instead of leaders

Think about the coach or the teacher that influenced you the most in life. Were they easy on you or did they challenge you to get the best out of you?  Odds are they were pretty
tough on you and expected more from you. They were able to see you as more than how you were performing and foster that growth within.   You didn’t necessarily like them all the time, but had to admit that they made you better.

The worst thing for leaders to do is to try to please everyone. The danger is comes when they lower expectations and standards to make everyone happy. They become weak in making the tough decisions. The business becomes socialistic in that the leaders want everyone to be happy instead of focusing on building up those who deserve it. (Yes, I did use the word socialistic.)

4. People are rewarded without earning it

The easiest way to find out if your people are driven by fabricated titles is to start giving them away to just about everyone who hasn’t earned it. The smart ones figure it out
though. Eventually they leave for a place where incentives are driven by results. It’s like the kid who is raised in a rich family whose parents gave him things without ever earning it. Those kids either grow up resenting for their parents for being too easy on them or they grow up so spoiled that they never really reach their capacity. Rewarding associates who didn’t earn it will keep some people, but are they the type of people that an organization wants to keep? The leaders will be the ones that leave because they don’t want to be recognized for something that they didn’t earn.

5. The leadership team is no longer on the same page

Have you ever been part of a team where the leaders weren’t in sync?  What happens?  Internally they can’t stand being around each other but in front of others they act like
best friends. They will say all the right things from stage but they can’t fool people for too long. Eventually, it implodes. No organization can thrive for long without united leadership. Leaders get the best results when they work together as team and rely on each other’s strengths. God gave us different talents so collectively we can do great things if we work as a team.

6.  The company’s vision was too small to begin with

If the vision of the leadership team of a company is to just make money and buy nice homes and cars, then they will eventually stop. Although there’s nothing wrong with having nice things, it won’t drive you to make history.  What’s the difference between
working for company like Microsoft, Apple, Walmart, or Google versus companies who slow down is whether the company is driven by a vision or just personal wealth for the executives.  Companies that want to change the world have visions that will continue on past the lives of its founders. That’s making a difference.

7. The leader’s heart is no longer in the business or the team

Have you ever met people who had already checked out? How does a team respond to leaders who have mentally moved on from the organization?  They eventually check out
themselves and move onto another organization with engaged leadership.

When leaders have started focusing on their next venture, their current venture will suffer. For you sports fans out there, can you think of an example of a sports team where the owner bought the team for the tax write off and was not personally invested in the players or the franchise? This happens when owning a team was a notch on someone’s belt and not a passion in their heart.  When apathy infects leadership, the organization’s decline is not far behind.

There are a few other reasons why companies and leaders lower their standards but we’re landing and my iPad battery is about to die. Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we will
dive into this topic a little bit more.

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