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Standards for Excellence Drive Success


What are your standards? What are the things that determine your behaviors and goal setting for the future? Standards build a core around what you will bring to the table. They articulate the driving forces behind growth and change and allow for a health check in how reality matches up against the conceptual and concrete values that build your engagement with your organization.

And what would your operating principles be? Sandler Trainer Brad McDonald was a commanding officer for a submarine and used a series of operating principles in order to ensure that he and his subordinates lived and worked under an intentional framework. This framework both demanded and created consistency within the organization and ensured continued success for himself and his crew.

Operating principles determine how you will behave and you should create and know what your version of these seven principles looks like—regardless of how much leading you do. The standards which you hold to yourself can be forgiven if they are not grounded and actual and by implementing a set of principles into your commitments and interactions you can improve and grow with determination and intention. Brad’s operating principles are as follows:

  1. Be approachable and in control of yourself. If you can’t control yourself, how will the crew believe you can control the ship in an emergency or in combat?
  2. Be consistent. Inconsistency demonstrates double-standards and enables victimhood.
  3. Be fair and just. There is a difference between expectations and standards.
  4. Set the Standards. The commanding officer sets their standards and determines what level of accountability they can expect and maintain.
  5. Continuously supply energy and enthusiasm for whatever is to be done. We choose whether or not the grinding and perpetual work bears down on us or whether we learn to enjoy and thrive in the environments that manage our success.
  6. Be yourself, but always be the commanding officer. You are yourself at all times, but within your organization you must maintain and remember what your role is.
  7. Make the Troops Proud that you are their captain. You determine the level of commitment that your constituents bring to the table.

When it comes to life, looking at yourself through a lens of committed action helps open the realization that with set standards there is an option better than autopilot. Standards empower us to take ownership of our lives and look for the keys that open up the opportunity for higher expectations. Typically, if we set standards and our expectations aren’t being met, it may mean that we’re not abiding by our own standards. Personal standards are truly behavior sets that we must consistently choose to indulge in.

Our actions, our behaviors, and ultimately our standards have a direct relationship with our self-esteem and if we’re consistently experiencing a drop in personal self-worth and value then it is important to examine what the standards are that are driving you. No matter where you want to see improvement: in self-discipline, in your cleanliness, in the quality of your work, in your health, in your money management, or even in something as small as your posture. The standards you create for yourself allows access to increased success in the achievement of your goals. Before you can meet a goal, you must be able to accomplish what the goal requires of you; your first step toward accomplishing a goal is building in yourself what the goal requires to be accomplished.

If you have low standards for yourself and others, it will only take you so far—and the distance may be nowhere near where your aim is set. Just so, it may also have consequences to the level of expectations that you have of yourself and others. This can lead to a substantially low level of achievement, but this shouldn’t worry you either. The vast majority of people have subpar standards, and this allows them to not achieve much of significance in their life and be okay with it.

Low standards lead to average results. This is only good for you if you are interested in taking advantage of that and raising your own personal standards so that you can build an edge against the competition and others in the world. Ultimately it is your choice whether or not you want to pursue a higher standard of excellence for yourself. It can motivate and enable those around you to believe deeply and push harder; it can also lead others to resent you for executing on what you desire. But, until you reach a point in your day-to-day life where the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change, you won’t change.

Decide for yourself; do you want to set a course for a better future? A better present? Or are you content with living another day surrounded by and executing substandard results? Good luck finding the necessary leverage to make change stick—if you need help or want support feel free to write me at

Thanks and remember, if you measure it, you’ll manage it.

Jim Stephens

Jim Stephens

President of Crossroads Business Development Inc.