Check Your Standards

By Lain Ehmann

The great salesperson is almost an archetype: Someone who’s great in person but poor at nonrevenue-generating activities, says Scott Blanchard, founder and CEO of and co-author of Leverage Your Best, Ditch the Rest (William Morrow, 2004). Despite your weak points, Blanchard says you can build on your strengths to make yourself a more well-rounded, effective individual. One of the key steps Blanchard uses with his coaching clients is to take a look at the standards to which they’re holding themselves and others. “Standards are a powerful concept inside an organization,” he says. “Standards determine how you act in any situation.”

Are you aiming too high? While it’s natural to assume that the higher the standards, the better, Blanchard says that’s not necessarily true. Instead, you need to examine your standards in light of your overall life and career goals, making sure each principle you’re holding yourself and others to is appropriate and consistent.

Open your eyes. Bringing these unwritten rules into the light allows you to see if guides that served you well years ago are still applicable. For example, early in your career, such as before the advent of your family, you might have decided that to do your job well, you needed to work at least one day each weekend. Now, though, with other claims on your time and other priorities, that standard may no longer work. Acknowledging that you’ve been striving to meet outdated ideals allows you to replace the old standard with one that better reflects your new priorities.

Stay consistent. By examining your standards, you also might discover inconsistencies. For example, while you’d never dream of making a prospective customer wait a week for you to return a call, you might not have a problem ignoring those messages from the accounting department about your latest expense report.

Update your standards wardrobe. Standards change and we need to change with them, says Blanchard. We can become packrats, holding onto values from parents, standards from long ago and dreams from early adulthood. “Before you know it, you’re walking around with this big sack of stuff that’s just weighing you down,” says Blanchard. Cleaning out your standards will make room for you to pursue what’s important to you now.

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