What are your team’s standards?

core valuesAt the recent Chick-Fil-A Leadercast, an all day leadership event, speaker after speaker talked about clarity and focus and adding value. I realized how overcomplicated we have made leadership. We have added so many tiers and levels of rules, guidelines and procedures that we have lost sight of what it means to be a leader.

The theme that emerged in my mind was the importance of standards or core values. As a leader, you need to set standards and expectations for how you will lead and how your team can expect to be treated (by you and by each other). Otherwise, all the rules and guidelines in the world won’t make up for basic core values for how you do things each day.

Coach Krzyzewski, Duke’s basketball coach and coach of the Olympic basketball team, described the standards he would set with his basketball teams at a team meeting early in the training. Standards like “tell the truth” or “no excuses.” Ground rules that everyone agreed to abide by, and that helped build trust among the team members.

As a leader, you must be careful to set the right standards because even if (or maybe especially if) you don’t set standards, they are set by default.

If you don’t proactively communicate with your team on a regular basis, then you are setting the standard that communication isn’t important.

By not taking immediate action with your team, you let them know that it’s ok for them not to take quick action with your customers or clients.

Inaction is still action when it comes to standards, and standards are one of the keys to setting your team up for success.

Standards or core values must be simple and straight forward, and agreed upon by everyone on your team. These are not terms to be flung around, but define the way your team functions every day.

If you are just setting them up, meet offsite and give everyone a chance to contribute and agree to what is set forth. If they are already in place, revisit them often, post them prominently, and remind your team of their importance. And make sure each new team member understands and agrees to them.

At the nonprofit where I work, the leadership team met for two days early this year to hammer out our core values. We had our mission statement, but not the standards for day-to-day operations, at least not spelled out simply.

We narrowed it down to what we call the “Building Blocks of GraceWorks: Act intentionally, Be relevant, Choose grace, Do more, Exceed expectations. Become the Jesus people see.”  It’s a clear, simple way to remind ourselves why we are there, and how we need to serve those who come to us for help.

Every day.

As a leader, have you clearly communicated your standards to your team? What standards have you set by your inaction?