What’s the Standard?

[May 7, 2018]  It was ten years ago but it seemed like yesterday.  I was standing with three fellow U.S. military officers discussing our electrical designs for a construction project in the country of Iraq.  We were at war and a young Engineer Lieutenant asked us a simple question, What’s the standard?

We never answered that question with any real confidence.  U.S. law and military regulations required we use American electrical standards but the reality of war prevented us from doing so.  If you don’t think that is important, just ask the widows of those servicemen accidentally electrocuted and who had died as a result.

“Barbarism is the absence of standards to which appeal can be made.” – Jose Ortega y Gasset, Spanish philosopher

The commander of the 1st Cavalry Division was Major General Peter W. Chiarelli.  He asked me one day, after this event took place, what was the electrical standard that we were using.  At the time there was nothing in writing that truly set a standard.  My answer was simple and direct.  “Sir, as long as we don’t kill anybody, then we have met the standard.”

Standards go beyond simple electrical construction but involve a host of behavior and activities which provide benefits to those who follow them.  For our purposes here, the quality of a leader is revealed in the ethical and work standards they set for themselves and for others who follow them.

Leaders overcome obstacles and how those obstacles are handled makes for how we view their leadership.  Learning to develop the ability to set expectations and standards and then holding people accountable is a key attribute of successful leadership.

General Chiarelli’s response to me was, “Well, that sounds right.  Carry on!”  Off we went, the 1st Cavalry Engineers moving out to get er done once again.  But no one was ever killed by the work we did and that, in itself, was an accomplishment that I’m proud of to this day.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

32 thoughts on “What’s the Standard?

  1. Albert Ayer

    Once again, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head with this article. I find it far to common for experts in the fields of manufacturing to every aspect of life that simply overlook the fact that standards do apply. What most of us have missed here is that the concept of standards and “good judgment” are closely linked. Without good judgment, there could be no standard or standardization. That is what leaders get paid to do. I know this is not a PC crowd that reads these comments but it was just to important to pass up the link.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      Oops, I meant that in response to Yusaf’s comment below.

  2. Andrew Dooley

    It was not that long ago, perhaps 50 years or so, that standards in behavior, in business, etc. were clear cut. The 1960s changed all that and now we have a “transformative” society. In such a society, respect is rarely given and that is the beginning of any society in decline. Is American in decline? Perhaps not but as long as progressive politicians and snowflake students are around, we all need to be on our guard.

  3. Lynn Pitts

    There are different gender standards for men and women. Those who wish it different are subjects of the dustbin of history. However, workplace standards should be the same.

    1. Gil Johnson

      A different time and different standards. Yes, for that reason they appear to be funny to us today but serious at that time.

    2. Joey Holmes

      Yes, I agree with this too. Cheers!

  4. Wilson Cox

    Jerry and Shawn, you are spot on. Also “set the example” is one of those leader standards that never seems to go away. 🙂

  5. Jerry Jones

    Be competent, be ethical, be honorable. That’s what my dad taught me and it has worked all my life.

  6. Shawn C Stolarz

    If you want ethical standards in the workplace or anywhere for that matter, be courteous, respectful, honest, and transparent as a leader. Everything else will fall into place. Ahhhh, but I’m told that’s so HARD to do.

  7. Billy Kenningston

    I work in the manufacturing sector and let me tell you the issue of standards is brutal.

  8. Janna Faulkner

    “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” by Ray Kroc. This is rather accurate in my opinion and one of my favorite leadership quotes.

  9. Joe Omerrod

    Standards of behavior is really what we are talking about here. One thing I have noticed in the medical profession is that hospitals are now beginning to adopt “standards of behavior” for their employees. See this one from Dosher Memorial Hospital, short and sweet: http://www.dosher.org/getpage.php?name=standards

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Good point, Joe. I think if we look across just about any large organization we will see the same thing occurring. Many reasons for this but it does make it easier to get rid of poor performing employees if the standards are in writing.

  10. Mr. T.J. Asper

    I work in a school teaching kids how to learn and what to think (yes, both). What I find is that so many of the teachers have absolutely no motivation to help these kids. They treat teaching like a 9 to 5 job where they punch a ticket and mindlessly go about doing something. The kids pick up on it too. But our union protects these lowlife morons and people wonder why our reputation is so soiled. Reason? They have no standards.

  11. Dale Paul Fox

    Good point Max, I never thought of it that way. I met plenty of people who could not care less about doing anything worthwhile in their lives. They also had no standards of behavior that would get them someplace. Poor souls that are lost.

  12. Max Foster

    Of course, not everyone’s standards have to be the same. Some have high standards and some, it would appear, have little or no standards whatsoever. The latter you will find in one of three places: prison, a mental institution, or in the gutter of life. Pick one.

  13. Anita

    “Set high standards and few limitations for yourself.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

  14. Kenny Foster

    There are people (some call them sheep) that go through life from one problem to the next without a clue how to solve any one of them. They rely on others to help. Othertimes they just breakdown and cry. But what they all have in common is an inability to see and understand simple standards. Go figure!

  15. Army Captain

    Very good subject today and thanks for the update on what other leaders are thinking. Of course, there are standards in everything we do and even in those things we think.

  16. Delf A. "Jelly" Bryce

    Despite what the “snowflakes” in college tell us, there are standards of behavior and those standards have been around for a long time. There is no denying that the informal rules of behavior have been in existence since the beginning of mankind and no matter how much PC you give us, that will never change.

  17. Yusaf from Texas

    As a long-time manager and leader in business, I will say you are correct here with this post. What is the standard, is the classic question asked, along with “what authority do you have.” Common in large organizations but also asked wherever people are trying to get the things done.

    1. Billy Kenningston

      Good to hear from you again Yusaf. Hope you are well.

    2. Ronny Fisher

      Correct Yusaf. Standards and authority are two very interrelated issues for any leader worth their salt.

    3. Bart Rhodes

      Long time no hear from you Yusaf. Hope all has been well. Keep up the great comments.

    4. Yusaf from Texas

      Thank you guys, always a pleasure to be on.

Comments are closed.