In the hard-nosed world of business, super successful Captain White Guy will always have some jewels of advice you’re encouraged to follow.

They’ll tell you about how they got to the top.

Chances are, they’ll tell you about their own hard work, sacrifices, and grit.

More than likely, you’ll learn that true excellence is a product of having the highest standards for yourself and others. Because if you’re going to have a team of top performers, you simply cannot tolerate people who cannot live up to your high standards.

When people on your team are not delivering, you either push them to meet your standards or get them off the team.

That’s what the winners do, right?

What people get wrong about standards

In book after book, the advice always seems to be rooted in a celebration of those with the hubris to impose their particular view about excellence. It’s framed as a heroic story of the individual who simply knows better. These superior beings graciously drag others kicking and screaming into the promised land.

Thank goodness for these generous titans of industry.

But believe it or not, amidst that great advice, there’s an even more impactful secret staring us right in the face. Once you see it, you may be surprised that you didn’t see it all along.

Standards of Consent

Much of the advice about holding others to high standards rests on the assumption that people must want to have external standards imposed on them since they took the job in the first place.

This is not actually how it works. While people may occasionally rise to meet those standards, they often do it for one of two reasons:

  1. They care enough about the outcome that they want to meet a high standard to begin with. Stated differently, it’s their own high standards they’re rising to.
  2. They fear for their own safety and security that if they do not rise to the occasion, they might lose their salary and healthcare.

Therefore, asking someone else to meet your standards is either an unnecessary exercise for the sake of your own ego (see bullet 1) , or an act of subjugation (see bullet 2).

The better path is actually easier and more effective, while also being significantly more ethical.

A Better Standard

Here’s the truth hiding in plain sight…

People don’t care about YOUR standards. They only care about their own standards.

  • What if you asked people about what goals they have for themselves?
  • What if you asked about the standards they hold themselves to?
  • What if you then then asked for their consent to hold them to their highest standard?

Now instead of fooling yourself into thinking it’s about you, you made it about them?

A Standard of Care

When someone is holding themselves to a lower standard than you believe they’re capable of, you have two options.

  1. Help them see a bigger possibility for themselves that align with the goals they already have. Then, provide support to help them step into a bigger, better version of themselves.
  2. Agree that there is a mismatch of standards and needs, then do everything in your power to help them find a better match in your company or elsewhere.

In order to do either of these, it can’t be about you. It has to be about them.

  • When you care about the people on your team, what you want for them is irrelevant.
  • What they want for themselves, what you can help them see in themselves, and how you can support them are all that matter.

My Standards

I have very high standards for myself. Yet, I have practically no standards for anyone I work with.

I believe that whatever standards I could conjure up about someone else, is a waste of time. It’s irrelevant to what they will actually do.


  • I want to know where each person I work with wants to go.
  • I want to know the standard of excellence they want to hold themselves to.
  • I want to know how I can be of service to the standards they are willing to own.

Because if I can identify where their goals and highest standards intersect with what I’m trying to accomplish, then I will have found something mutually beneficial and sustainable.

This is how you can actually set high standards and hold people accountable.

Standards of Truth

The truth is, no one cares what you want. They care what they want.

Save your standards for yourself, and start helping people live up to their own standards instead.

Everything else is little more than a delusion or manipulation.

I hope you enjoyed this post!

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