The following is a post I made on one of my first blogs. It is still relevant – probably more relevant now than ever. It is a caveat and tenet that I live by in business and personal life.

It is my belief that if you can’t explain something then you don’t understand it. If you don’t understand it then you can’t do it or live it.

What Is A ‘Standard’?

July 06, 2009 By: Ted Duboise Category:  Leadership

Many years ago, at a job interview I was asked this question. After the interview, I really pondered the question and the answer and eventually came to fully understand it’s meaning.

Set The Standard
In business, we often hear someone reference standards: “It’s not up to standards” or “that’s standard operating procedure”. As a leader, mother, father, teacher, or coach we feel (and it is expected) that we should “set the standard”. “Setting the standard” is definitely expected from our employees. The minister at our church is expected to set the standard. Setting the standard is easier to do if you can define “standard”.

Since that question was asked of me many years ago, I too have incorporated the question into my interviewing of management candidates. I usually don’t expect an answer – at least not the real one. My hope is that I too will impress upon that person to do as I did and really learn and live the meaning. I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates and I think I’ve had only about two people that gave the true meaning. In our society, we have few standards because few people can actually define what a standard is.

Book Definition
Webster defines standard as: “Criterion; measure; authoritative; much used”. Although accurate in theory, this definition doesn’t give any indication of how to apply it in practice. My formula for learning has always been “an ounce of theory and a pound of practice”. Well, this definition gives us an ounce of theory. But how do we practice. I’m sure there has been a few times in your career that you told your boss (or wanted to tell her/him), “Well, that sounds good in theory but this is the real world”. So that leads me to the question:

How do we put a standard into practice?
Simple. The standard is always in the forefront of our mind. There are few, if any, compromises! Let me tell you one of my favorite truisms. “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it!” That my friend, I believe holds true whether in business or in your personal life! This truism actually explains the question:

What Is A Standard?
A standard is: “The minimum acceptable”- the least acceptable. The least that you would accept. The very least that you would accept in whatever the endeavor is, be it honesty, integrity, best practices, or results. In too many instances, we accept whatever happens.

In any situation, personal or business, we should stop and decide what result we want from that situation. Our decision then becomes the standard. Then we make sure that everyone involved with the project understands what the “minimum acceptable” is. In other words, we set the standard!

The moment of truth comes when you’re all alone and no one will ever know what you do in that instant, will you do what’s right? Will you uphold the standard?

Remember: A Standard is the Least Acceptable


What is a Standard?
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