When I become involved in something I like to know the rules. Whether in a card or board game when gathered with friends or family, in performing my duties on the job, or in a business or legal transaction. Knowing the rules of the road helps me to drive my vehicle safely and legally. Knowledge of established policy and procedures brings me confidence that I am doing my job correctly. I want it black and white!
Some suggest that it is not that simple, that there are grey areas. What they are saying is that everything is subject to interpretation. When I hear this, I begin to look for two things, deception, and mediocrity. Zig Ziglar said this, and it always bears repeating,
“The greatest marksman is the one that aims at nothing, he hits it every time.”
Not for me! In every situation, there is good and right, or evil and wrong. It is either truth or a lie. I have light and can see clearly, or it is dark, and my vision or understanding is hindered. When laws, rules, policies, and standards are left to individual interpretation, we become like the people of Israel in the time of the judges before they had a king. Everyone doing what was right in their own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
The culture of our society seems to be growing in this attitude and champions this with words like these.
“We don’t need any stinking rules!”
“Just do what feels good.”
“It is what it is.”
This attitude permeates every area of society today. In our governments, businesses, and in some churches, this epidemic of immorality, unethical practices, and legal violations has not only spread, but is in some cases excused or accepted. In most cases it starts with leadership. Civil leaders by example of their own lives, and the behaviors they endorse through legislation. Church leaders focused on numbers, and being pleasers of men instead of God, forsake the whole counsel of His Word, for flashy stage presence and feel-good sermons.
In this article I want to focus on business or our workplaces. In the eighties, business mission statements started becoming popular, and they not only defined organizations, but set guiding principles on how they would be used. Most of the senior management of any business insist on standards. These standards are set in safety, quality, and production. But descend the ladder of leadership to the shop floor, or first floor office, and sometimes these standards are reduced to “Que Sera Sera”, that’s good enough, or we’ll let it slide.
Let it slide. Slide where? How far? The idea of letting it slide shows a slackness of or removing the hand. Allowing something to go out substandard is a slippery slope. It is going to influence your company’s reputation, and yours as the leader. Every time I hear, “Let it slide” in my mind I think lazy. (Prov. 20:4, 21:25) I know this because there have been times when I have said it. I did not want to put forth any more time or effort. I judged it good enough, when the reality was, I could have done more. I could have made it better.
In a recent safety meeting, my supervisor presented us with the topic, “Good Enough”. After reading through the bullet points of how good enough exposes workers to unnecessary risks, does not mitigate hazards, and offers the temptation to take shortcuts. He took a few minutes to talk about quality. Having started this article a couple days earlier, I thought he was reading my mail. He made a statement that impressed me.
“A shortcut is just that. It is cutting out the established policy and procedures to shorten the time and effort needed to do the right thing, or the right way.”
I wrote earlier that it starts with leadership, and I will add that it ends with leadership. Leaders bear the responsibility for the standards of quality, safety, and production being met. During my career I worked under safety regulations, company rules, industry standards, and welding codes. The purpose for these was to hold everyone to consistency and compliance. I was always subordinate to three authorities. My supervisor, a safety officer, and the welding inspector. Each of these held responsibility over me so that I did not “Let it slide”.
Before closing let me tell of a time when I saw just how letting it slide always comes back on leadership. It was in a meeting that our supervisor had called. We were going through a period where we had let some stuff slide. He needed to tighten us up! His boss was in attendance to show support for how he was going to change things and start holding the team to a higher standard. While addressing the team, he began to pass around some pictures of the work that had been carried out so far on our current project. As he began to talk about the pictures and warn everyone that this quality of work would not be tolerated, he made the mistake of telling out on himself and his leader men. When he said, “Now over seventy-five feet of weld now had to fixed”, his manager came unwound. Her question to him left a lasting impression on me.
“Why was seventy-five feet of weld allowed to be put down? Why didn’t this stop at ten feet? Where were you?”
Leaders, with the primary duty of empowering your people to succeed, holding them to standards should never be looked at negatively. You are not to be popular, but present. Your organization hired you to challenge and hold your people to the standards set by senior leadership. Whether your subordinates will ever acknowledge it, they want to do things right, never do they want their work to simply be passed on. Most want to know that their accomplishments have met or exceeded the standards.
And for employees, we would do well to keep the mindset that you are doing another’s work or serving another person. (Luke 16:12) The parable of the faithful servant (Matt.24, Mark 13, Luke 12) and the parable of the talents (Matt. 25, Luke 19) can inspire and guide us in carrying out our responsibilities in our workplaces. Your organization, your co-workers, and you deserve it.
Be diligent, be faithful, strive for excellence!