How Not to Raise the Bar

Chaper 2 Pg 52-54 Lead With Love Gerry Czarnecki

The following exchange between a leader and an associate illustrates the pain that results from trying to raise the bar too much and too fast. Once you go too far, the resistance can get so severe that almost anything you say can be countered with a refusal to try. Ask for too much and you may get nothing.

LEADER: I’ve set a new expectation of our productivity standard for a processor from ten files a day to twenty-five. ASSOCIATE: But we’ve done ten files a day for the last five years … how is that increase possible?

LEADER: We have a new process that we believe will help increase productivity.

ASSOCIATE: But why change it now before we know about the process?

LEADER: I want to give you a new challenge so we can take advantage of the gains.

ASSOCIATE: But why should I increase output by that much?

LEADER: Because the company needs to increase its productivity.

ASSOCIATE: Why do I care about that?

LEADER: Company profits will make us all better off.


 LEADER: We will make more money, and there will be more money in profit sharing.

 ASSOCIATE: I am not eligible for profit sharing.

 LEADER: You will be.

ASSOCIATE: Yes, but not now. What is in it for me today?

 LEADER: You get a chance to hit a new goal. The satisfaction of being better is a good reason.

 ASSOCIATE: Are you cutting staff and just trying to get me to pick up the slack?

LEADER: No, but we will be able to take on more work with the same staff.

ASSOCIATE: What if we do not get any more work; are you going to cut staff then?

 LEADER: We are confident we’ll be able to get the greater volumes.

ASSOCIATE: Are you going to pay me more?

LEADER: No, not right now. Meet the new expectations, and you will be more eligible for promotion.

ASSOCIATE: What kind of promotion?

LEADER: Well, I don’t have one especially in mind right now.

ASSOCIATE: Are you going to pay me more money?

 LEADER: Not right away. Maybe, if you meet the new expectations.

ASSOCIATE: Maybe? Are you kidding?

There can be no meaningful dialogue on expectations when the leader does not love the recipient of the guidance. This exchange is manipulative, not loving. No loving leader would manipulate an associate. Candor, honesty, and fairness are essential aspects of a loving leader’s behavior. Changing the course is tough, but without a loving touch to the relationship, there is no way for the message to take root. As you can see in this dialogue, the task of setting expectations is not without its risks. Goals are designed to bring about a new course. Seldom does a new direction come easily. As Nicolo Machiavelli said in The Prince, “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.” It is essential to stay focused and to always keep the reasons for the expectations clearly in mind since the path will not be easy. Peak performance never is.

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