All leaders need to fight against the leadership flaw of  “It’s not what you preach – it’s what you tolerate.” 


If this leadership flaw is left unchecked the high bar of performance you explicitly call your team to achieve is undermined.  No matter how much you believe in what your company can become, it will not happen if you don’t periodically assess yourself around “It’s not what you preach – it’s what you tolerate.”  That’s because all of the hard and good work of setting performance and behavioral standards in your company are undermined by not holding your team accountable for substandard performance and behavior.


The greater the gap between what you preach and what you tolerate as a leader sends mixed messages and creates confusion in your company’s culture, leading to substandard performance of the business.


What you preach

  • Calls everyone to clear a high bar of performance and behavior
  • Motivates people to do their best
  • Results in a healthy culture of high performers
  • Creates clarity of expectations
  • Sets one standard for all


What you tolerate

  • Accepts a low bar of performance and behavior
  • Fosters complacency
  • Allows a group of low performers to drag down the overall performance of the company
  • Creates confusion around expectations
  • Allows double standards


How to reinforce the explicit standards you preach and eliminate toleration of substandard performance and behavior:

  • Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you expect a 20% increase in sales this year, don’t set the goal at 30% – set it at 20%, and hold those accountable to a 20% increase in sales.
  • If there are stated consequences for not meeting a certain performance measure, then enforce them. No exceptions.
  • Recognize those who meet or exceed the stated expectations. Praise & recognize performance you want repeated.
  • Likewise, confront those with substandard performance or behavior. They must be held accountable and called to the higher standards expected of everyone.  Give them a chance to improve, but they must be held accountable to the higher standard expected of everyone.
  • Set a high standard.  A chain is as strong as its weakest link – and so is your team.
  • Don’t settle for mediocrity and exceptions. Continually push yourself and your team to perform at everyone’s best.  Great teams bring out the best in everyone.
  • Face the facts. Confront the harsh realities of how individuals on your team are performing and behaving.
  • Recognize the consequences of tolerating substandard performance and behavior – a company that doesn’t get you the results you want with a culture you don’t like.
  • Be consistent. Leaders who keep moving the goal post and changing the rules of the game confuse and demotivate their team.


So What?

If you are the owner of a company or the leader of a team, you have to take responsibility for your team’s performance and behavior.  Clearly you need to exemplify the preached standards of performance and behavior you expect of everyone.  But to the extent your team is not meeting the standards you’ve set, you’ve got to remember “It’s not what you preach – it’s what you tolerate”  and look in the mirror and ask – what do I need to do differently?


Next Steps

  • Visit and schedule a call with Tom Barrett to discuss how he helps entrepreneurs get what they want from their business. 


About The Author

Tom Barrett is a Nashville-based leadership team coach who utilizes proven processes such as Scaling Up and the ValueBuilder System to help entrepreneurs get what they want from their business. 

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