In business standards are part of every day life. We all have to “meet standard” to keep our job or to advance in our job. Companies and or bosses set standards that must be met or achieved and those standards are communicated to the people who must meet the standards. At the end of a day, or week, or quarter or year we are assessed in one form or another as to our performance against those standards. The standards can take many forms:
– attendance at work
– attainment of quotas or objectives such as a sales target or market share
– company growth versus previous year or objective
– profit versus a goal or target
– quality versus a defined target

We frequently judge ourselves by these standards when comparing our performance to the performance of others. For example, I met my sales quota while 35% of the sales force missed quota. That achievement subjectively puts me in the top two-thirds of the sales force. These types of comments are often heard when co-workers are chatting about work and the company or during an annual performance review. In a way the thought process is “I’m doing fine because I’m meeting the standards set by the company or set by the boss”. Those standards are only part of the equation if we want to excel. Standards set by others should not be the standards you use to measure your true performance.

The best and most effective standards are the ones we set for ourselves. Those are the standards we should try to meet or beat, and those are the standards by which we should accurately measure our performance if we truly want to excel. We should evaluate our performance based upon our standards, our objectives, our goals, or our achievements. We should set the bar.

We know our capability better than anyone. We know what we have the ability to achieve. We should grade ourselves or evaluate ourselves based upon our standards not the standards of others.

In many instances, particularly those that deal with qualitative issues the standards are difficult to determine. Coming from the advertising world this was a daily challenge for many in the agency given the large role of clients in their life. Clients might approve an ad and comment that the ad was very good. People might then think “I was successful today. The client liked my ad.” Those same people could be depressed when the client rejected an ad and think “I was a failure today”. However, it was not unusual for mediocre ads to be approved and praised and great ads to be rejected. If we live by the standards of others we lose sight of our true performance.

In the above two instances a person living by their standards would recognize the truth in both cases. Their sense of worth would not be inflated due to the approval and their sense of worth would not be deflated due to the rejection.

Setting our own standards is helpful on many fronts. Our own standards help us:
– maintain emotional strength
– keep us focused and real
– help us excel
– help us improve
– better prepare us for success

The key is simple, be truthful to yourself. Measure yourself by your standards.