The Powerful Side Effect of High Standards post image

My friend, Regina, says that she considers a kid’s book report a win if only one person ends up crying. I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth I put my parents through in the early years. And last night was one of those nights at the Hurt household. My husband, a firefighter, was on an overnight shift, so it was just me, Sebastian, a bucket of Swedish Fish and the promise of a very long night.

I imagine most parents are familiar with the “I didn’t start early enough, and now we need to go to the Walgreens for supplies, stay up half the night and get up early in the a.m., finish just in time to get to school with wet hair and no breakfast kind of loving feeling.”

What makes these nights so hard is that the parent holds the standards.

“Nope, that’s not what the rubric says. We have to follow the guidelines or you’ll lose points.”

“I know it’s late, but your handwriting is getting really sloppy. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to re-write that part.”

Cue the tears.

“Okay, you’ve done all the basics, now how are we going to make this really stand out?”

“But Mom…”

It be much easier to just get through the basics. After all, it’s JUST a book report.

The Powerful Side Effect

And then there’s the side effect. On the ride to school this morning, Sebastian was glowing. “I think this is the best report I’ve ever done.” “I’m sure this is going to be the very best one.” “I can’t imagine I won’t get an A.” “I can’t wait to show my teacher.” And my personal favorite, “Mom, you know you did a really good job too.” ;-)

Pride. Confidence. Energy.

Too often I see managers back off their standards, letting their team just get by. After all it’s only a ______.

That’s not leadership.

Tough standards, gentle inspiration.

When you’re tempted to buy into “This is impossible,” consider the side effect.

See also The Power of Great Expectations

7 Ways to Outsmart the Competition: The Series

This is the final post in the series of 7 ways to outsmart the competition. Links below. I’m considering turning this into a keynote. What do you think?

1. Get there early

2. Be an explainer

3. Pay attention to your own game.

4. Help your team get smarter

5. Be easy to follow

6.Ignore them 

7. And today’s: Hold a higher standard


Filed Under:   confident humility, Energy & Engagement, Everything Else, Results & Execution
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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What People Are Saying

Alli Polin   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

I can remember nights like that from my youth. It’s interesting, they don’t do reports like that in primary school here so it’s not been the experience yet in our household. While it’s a tough night, it’s a lesson that lasts forever.

Karin Hurt   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Ahhhh, maybe I should just move to Austrialia ;-) This month, social studies fair. We’re starting sooner.

Terri Klass   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

I remember those nights with my daughters and sometimes I just wished I wasn’t as involved and that the projects were meant for just the kids, not the parents too. Having said that, I think parents are our first coaches and the kids today learn to work with coaches in a positive way from an early age.

Thanks Karin! And yes turn this into a keynote!

Karin Hurt   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Terri, Thanks so much! Yeah, I too had that feeling. Shouldn’t kids be able to do this on their own? But the truth is, he did need support. It’s important we scaffold our teams as needed to help them grow.

Natalie Christian   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

I really needed this this morning Karin! I’ve diligently continued to follow your blog and am inspired every day. After working for a company like Verizon for 10+ years it’s been challenging to adjust to a much more “casual” work environment with “casual” expectations. And I’m sure just as challenging for my employees to adjust to my higher expectations! MANY times I have found myself thinking “why am I spinning my wheels” or “maybe I should just go with the status quo”. NO! Thank you for reminding me that I didn’t go through months and months of personal and professional development for nothing! There’s a reason I’m here – and part of that is to (gently) help prepare my team for changes that are coming in this organization and to prepare myself to be a part of that change. The other reasons… well, I’m sure those will come with time :)

Karin Hurt   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Natalie, Great to hear from you! Thanks so much. Hang in there, and keep those standards up!

d   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Thanks Karin, I just had to say I really love this post. Lowering standards is the easy path to mediocrity.

Karin Hurt   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Thanks, so much, Dan! That means a lot.

LaRae Quy   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

YES! Turn this into a keynote, Karin!

Love Terri’s comment that parents are our first exposure to coaching…and something we need the rest of our life!

Karin Hurt   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

LaRae, Thank you. Yes, it’s a lifelong process

Jennifer   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Hmmm, this is an interesting take, but I have mixed feelings. As a college professor, I see the effect of TOO much parental coaching and the fact that parents didn’t let their kids fail and take responsibility for their actions. Yes, this coaching them and holding them to high standards helps our kids to learn how to accomplish these standards, but if we bail them out every time then they don’t learn how to plan for deadlines and how to take ownership in their own work. They just procrastinate and hope someone else will solve their problem. Then they get to college and really struggle because they were not taught time management and how to be responsible for their own actions. I am not suggesting this is you every time Karin, I’m sure its not so please don’t take offense, but I felt the need to point out this important counterpoint to part of this story here.

Karin Hurt   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Jennifer, Excellent addition. Totally agree. How can we prevent this next time must be part of the coaching.

Steve Borek   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

These standards will serve Sebastian for life. Well done Karin.

Karin Hurt   |   11 February 2015   |   Reply

Thanks, Steve!