The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept
This great quote – attributed to Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison (a senior officer in the Australian Army) – was first said to me by Dan Pruce, a speaker on one of our leadership development programmes.
Dan’s story went something like this:
Every day I walked past a scruffy old hedge.
The hedge ran along the side of one of our office buildings, our gardener was responsible for giving it an occasional trim. I supposed that because the public rarely saw it, it had tumbled down the priority list, and got little attention.
It annoyed me, but it wasn’t my priority either, and I didn’t really think of it as something under my sphere of influence. It took me a while before I realised I could do something about it.
So I put aside my reservations about being seen to be wasting time on an unimportant issue, and ignored my inner voice shouting at me to stop being annoying, and I met the gardener and asked that the hedge be maintained to a higher standard.
It was a small thing, but from that moment on I never walked past something I thought wasn’t good enough.
Odd for a story about topiary to be so meaningful, but the central message was clear: if you’re a leader, and you don’t challenge it, that means it’s OK.