High Standards

One of my mentors, the late Eli Goldratt, had a saying about goal setting:

“If you’re not sure how to hit a target… raise the target.”

Practically, the reason this works is that raising the target eliminates possible courses of action and forces you to focus on the levers that will have the biggest impact. Philosophically however, it is a particular instance that illustrates the power of having high standards.

Having high standards for both yourself and others is pretty close to having a superpower. Yet while it sounds simple, it’s not easy. It requires stepping back and asking ‘what does true excellence look like here?’. Then, it requires both the discipline and the emotional fortitude to hold yourself and others to that higher standard.

All great leaders hold high standards. Consider the very first job that Jeff Bezos ever posted at Amazon (my emphasis):

Well-capitalized start-up seeks extremely talented C/C++/Unix developers to help pioneer commerce on the Internet. You must have experience designing and building large and complex (yet maintainable) systems, and you should be able to do so in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible. You should have a BS, MS, or PhD in Computer Science or the equivalent. Top-notch communication skills are essential. Familiarity with web servers and HTML would be helpful but is not necessary.

Whether it’s speed, quality, or both, great leaders hold high expectations for themselves and their teams.

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