A while ago I recently received an e-mail question from a W.I.N.Newsletter subscriber who I know personally and have a great amount of respect for. He was working overseas training law enforcement officers in another country. His question is “When is good, good enough? We strive for perfection, but here, the standards are different. We have had to alter our expectations to meet the environment (lowering the standard). It is reality and to press too hard for our standard will alienate the audience. It is really quite challenging when you really examine it.”
I recently had this very same discussion with a few trainers here so I thought I would share my thoughts from the three newsletters where I addressed this issue. Starting with this blog posting I will post a three part series to address the question on “When is good, good enough?”
This is a great question and one worth examining. There are a few issues here. The first is the word perfection. As we have discussed previously we need to strive for excellence rather than perfection, as excellence is attainable, while perfection is not.
The next issue is the one of standards. This is an issue that faces trainers, managers and recruiting personnel in a variety of organizations and occupations. Do we need to lower or alter standards to meet hiring targets or to accommodate the people we have already hired? The answer is – Depends. I use the word depends to answer a variety questions. The answer is that it depends on the totality of circumstances, which encompasses a large number of factors.
If this case the answer may be yes, we need to alter ‘our’ standards. Now, I am generally not a fan of lowering standards. However, we must examine where we are and ask ourselves if the standards transferable from one group to another, or as is the case here, from one culture to another. Are we taking standards for law enforcement officers in North America in the 21st Century and seeking to apply them to a culture where law enforcement as they know it may be 20, 30, or 50 years behind us? This individual was recruited to go over to help create the standards and deliver the training because of his expertise. He is a forward thinking and energetic individual who is a leader in his field here. He spent his career striving to bring excellence to his organization and to continually raise the bar for hiring and training. Now we have transported him back in time. Yes it is still 2009 but many of the concepts he is striving to instill are still foreign to those he is working with. The educational standards, fitness standards, perceptions of the role of police in the community, life expectancy of police officers, and concepts of time may all be very different and are a few of the challenges we have to adapt to.
Is it that we are lowering the standards, or are we simply adjusting the standards for the group with the understanding that the bar for excellence may be set at different heights?
Consider a track and field meet at an elementary school and where the bar would be set for those kids competing in high jump. As they get to junior high and continue in the sport the bar gets higher, in high school it continues to get raised. At the collegiate level the bar is even higher and is at it’s highest during World Championships and the Olympics. What happens if we take the Olympic Coach and send him back in time to coach 10 year old kids? Do they have to lower the standards, or do they just have to lower the bar for a while. Over time the coach will be able to raise the bar as the kids develop the skills and abilities to complete the new skills. The coach will experience some frustration because of the gap between what they are used to working with (skill level and equipment) and what he or she is now working with. They may however, have more patience because they are kids and they are just starting out in the sport and they know they have a long time to get them to the level they need to be at to compete in high stakes competition.
Now give the same Olympic coach a group of adults who have never competed in a track and field event, and in fact may never have participated in any sport in their lives. The challenge for the coach is to mold them into Olympic caliber high jumpers in a very short period of time. The catch is that if they cannot compete at that level they may die. Might there be a higher level of frustration on the part of the coach? This however, is exactly the challenge facing the person who sent me the question.
Think about the concept we explored in this newsletter. How does it apply in your agency, your life or your occupation? What are your thoughts about the ideas expressed? What advice would you give him? How would you answer his question “When is good, good enough?”
We will explore the global issue more in Fridays blog.
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Take time tomorrow to reflect and honor in your own way all the warriors who have served and those paid the ultimate sacrifice.