Renaissance for LEADERS

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Eroding High Standards

Boom. Crash. Catastrophic failure and collapse.

History is littered with corporate failures that involve massive loss of jobs, investor, supplier, and client financial losses. Empires flourish for a while, then go into decline. Some last longer than others.

The larger the failure, the more complex and difficult it can be to trace back to the singular cause. Complexity can cover up the real issues. However, a thorough investigation by people who know what to look for can often reveal lapses in standards, honesty, and ethics long before the terminal collapse.

These lapses often (but not always) begin at the top – with the leadership, and then filter down throughout the organization.

The Lower Truth Phenomena

We are writing here about businesses and organizations, however, this same scenario plays out in interpersonal relationships with a similar effect.

Whenever you work for or with a person who operates at a lower level of truth, honesty, values, and standards than you do, you will be pulled down to their level of lower truth, honesty, values, and standards.

This does not happen overnight, it occurs slowly and insidiously over time.

Here is an example of this mechanism in operation:

Let’s say you are a high standard, high truth person who values honesty and you enter into a business partnership with another person. This can also occur when you work as an employee for lower standard management. In the following example, we are using a partnership where each partner has equal say. In situations where management has more say and power over you, this phenomenon is greatly exaggerated.

Your partner purports themselves to be the same as you. They say they value honesty, have high standards, etc. On the surface, this appears to be true and you believe them.

Taking them at face value you proceed to invest a significant amount of money, time and energy in the venture. In the course of doing business, you make a lot of promises and agreements on behalf of the partnership.

When things are going well, everything is flowing and proceeding to your satisfaction. And then one by one, things begin to go wrong. There is no apparent explanation for the small failures, so you proceed forward regardless of the “taps on the shoulder.”

As things deteriorate, and more and more stress comes into the project and the partnership, you are unable to keep all your agreements and promises. This does not happen overnight, it occurs one small thing at a time. A supplier doesn’t get paid on or before the date promised. A client doesn’t get the exact order as promised. A team member’s salary is a few days late with no communication. A deposit is made late. A check bounces, etc.

Slowly but surely your high standards and ideals have been compromised and you find yourself out of integrity with yourself. This causes you to feel ashamed which can be very painful.

In order to deal with the pain of violating your high standards and ideals, the first thing you do is lower your standards and justify these lesser ideals. These lowering of standards come through your language as justification statements that sound like this: “Oh, you can’t do such and such in this business and be successful anyway,” or “Everybody has this problem in this business,” or “In this country, it is normal to pay a few days late and nobody takes any notice of it, so it is no big deal,” or “It is my intention that matters. I am not deliberately misleading people,” etc.

Eventually, a few days late on payments becomes 30, 60, 90 days, etc. If the cycle continues unchecked, you will even justify not paying people at all, in order to pay others. This is often called, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The next thing that occurs is that you don’t get paid on or before the date promised. A supplier doesn’t get you the exact order as promised. A payment to you is a few days late with no communication. A deposit is made late. A check bounces on you, etc. In other words, what you have done to others comes back to be done to you…

For you, as a high standard person, you take all this very personally. Your partner appears upset too, however, is more aligned with these lower standards anyway, and will lower their standards further in order to “make it work.” This leads to conflict between you and your partner over keeping agreements and maintaining high standards of conduct and honesty.

At first, you take full responsibility that it must be your problem and your partner reaffirms this. Your partner somehow convinces you to be the front person as your standard of responsibility is higher than theirs. So they will naturally tend towards blaming you and abdicating responsibility to you.

As your standards continue to decline, it becomes more and more painful.

In order to deal with the pain, you lower your standards more and deny that you had higher standards in the first place. Before you know it, you are operating at a very low level of truth, honesty, and standards.  You are much reduced in your power, charisma, and confidence to the point of giving up.

It is often at this point that the entire project fails and you experience a paradigm crash. Everything stops working.

To recover from a situation like this takes personal courage to review what actually happened and to reclaim your level of truth, honesty, and high standards.

To maintain high standards, it is imperative to connect, work and associate with people of similar or higher standards than you.

© Goldzone Education, LLC. All rights reserved.


Qualities, Virtues & Values


Uncompromising Standards


  1. I also really related to this piece and the anguish inside of lowering my standards due to others. I have found that there is so much more flow and cooperation when working with people of similar and higher standards, and much more struggle and less flow when working with people of lower standards.
    I expect that many people are using the financial crisis as an excuse for their low standards……..when they were there previously all along – actually I find after reading this article how much of the financial crisis was caused by peoples’ (& companies – and companies are run & made up of people) low standards! Here’s to higher standards everywhere.

  2. Moving piece, I can relate personally and professionally. I really appreciate working with people who have similar and higher standards then myself. I recognize the people who are of lower standards and how much that takes away. I also do not like the impact of the financial crisis has had on me lowering my standards. The out of integrity and congruence creates a huge block on the flow.
    Therefore, integrity, congruence, and high standards are keys to success!

  3. Adrian

    This piece has a lot of unseen depth and becomes more relevant as I consider various outcomes I have had over the years… a great piece and very insightful.

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