It’s early on a Saturday morning and I am ten minutes into my Saturday morning routine; settled in sipping on a hot cup of coffee and engrossed in my daily readings. There is another forty five minutes before the girls have to get up and get ready for dance practice. My wife joins me and together we share a very nice quiet time. The girls get up slowly and peacefully they each sit down to eat the strawberry crepes my wife and I made them and here it comes, in the high pitched whiny voice that sends me instantly through the roof, “I don’t like strawberries in my crepes!” I tried to remain calm and asked her to pick them out and set them off to the side. I knew very quickly that my rocket was getting ready to take off, sure enough, it did. My intolerance reared its ugly head. We made it through the morning, but the peacefulness in our home was long gone. I don’t tolerate whininess very well.
It turns out that not tolerating certain behaviors puts me in good company. Recently, I heard a great story about an American leader. This story came from Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir Known and Unknown. Apparently Rumsfeld was a hard man. That probably isn’t too surprising considering he was Secretary of Defense for two different presidents. He recognized this about himself and balanced that by placing some “softer” leaders around him. As most leaders do Rumsfeld had to tolerate some things, but the story my friend shared indicated that there was an absolute intolerable offense that Rumsfeld would not stand for. If anyone came into a Rumsfeld meeting or situation and complained about a proposed solution without offering an alternative, he would be asked to leave immediately. There would probably be some long term damage to your career with Rumsfeld if you were the one asked to leave.
As a leader, what do I tolerate and what do I not tolerate? I started listing things in my head and then began to write them down. Here is what I came up with:
I would tolerate:
- Trying and failing and trying again
- Opposing Views
I would not tolerate:
- Complaining about a solution without providing an alternative
- Half Measures
What is the best way to let other people know this about your leadership style? One of the things I have seen leaders do is create a bio sheet of sorts that tells a little bit about themselves and sets some expectations. This sheet can be provided to new staff members as they join the team and should alert them to some cultural do’s and don’ts.
From setting to setting this list of what we will and will not tolerate can change, but, like Rumsfeld, there are some absolutes for me. One of them is dishonesty and the other is probably half measures. I might put up with half measures in some situations, but under no circumstances can I tolerate dishonesty. You might feel the same way. Dishonesty on different levels has caused much damage in peoples lives. You don’t have to look far to see where dishonesty has negatively impacted your work or family.
A saying comes to mind, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. Create your own list of tolerances and intolerances and find an effective way to communicate this to those on your team and in your family. If you ask my children what will immediately send me through the roof, they will tell you! If you ask my team at work, they would know it as well as my children.