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The importance of standards

 13 June 2019     Donald Cooper 

I was reminded of the importance having and enforcing clear standards recently after hearing about a recent decision by the Toronto School Board to loosen their student dress code to allow tank tops, tube tops, bare midriffs, bare backs, pajamas and onesies to be worn to school. Apparently, “letting it all hang out” is an important part of today’s education and self-expression. I may just be old and cranky, but I think this is nuts! Whatever happened to teaching high standards, modesty and self-respect?

Science says the clothes we wear affect our behaviour, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence and even the way we interact with others. This is called Enclothed Cognition. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

When these kids come to work for you someday, they’ll expect to be allowed to ‘express themselves’ however they want and you’re going to have a problem.

A few years ago, I walked into the head office of a big insurance company that had signed on as a client to interview its management as part of the research for a speech I was giving to them. A big sign in the lobby announced, “Please excuse our appearance…it’s our ‘Casual Friday’.” If your standards for ‘Casual Friday’ have gotten so damn casual you have to put up a sign apologising for how you look, you’ve gotten way too casual. After all, there’s a very real difference between ‘casual’ and ‘sloppy’.

Having clear and appropriate standards of performance, behavior and appearance is important in every business, including yours. We don’t have high standards because we’re old, mean or cranky. We have them because they matter. How we look, behave and perform in every part of our business:

  • either creates or destroys customer confidence and trust;
  • either builds or destroys customer relationships; and,
  • says who we are and what we care about.

Having standards isn’t just about dress codes. It’s about cleanliness, tidiness, safety and performing effectively and efficiently. It’s about our sense of urgency, our sense of pride and how we treat customers and each other. It’s about burned out lights that don’t get replaced, the litter in the parking lot and the dead plant in the lobby.

Do you have clear and appropriate standards in every part of your business? Does everyone know what they are and why they’re important? Do you monitor and measure performance, behavior and appearance and fix what needs fixing? Or, do you let things slide? Don’t just go with the flow. ‘The flow’ is downhill.

Here’s something else to think about:
The importance of asking the right questions. Many leaders believe their job is to have all the right answers. In reality, leaders need to be much better at asking the right questions.

Asking great questions is fundamental to finding out what’s really going on in the business, building employee engagement and benefiting from the wisdom of your team. Develop the skill of asking great questions – then listen.

Whatever happened to ‘simple acts of kindness’? Not too long ago, a No Frills grocery store manager in Alberta told Linda Rolston, a disabled customer with mobility issues, she would have to shop somewhere else because she was too slow in packing her groceries at the check-out. They banned a disabled customer from their grocery store. What were they thinking? What were they feeling?

When Ms. Rolston complained to the company’s head office, they offered her a measly $100 in compensation on the condition she sign a release promising not take action against the company, or speak out about the incident. She turned down the offer and now TV news and social media have picked up on this stunning lack of compassion nationally and internationally. So, now we have a new definition of ‘mean, cheap and stupid’.


Cocoon by Sealy
Sealy Canada
This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.


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