Setting and Maintaining Standards
In a prior entry, I mentioned the fact that when I look for consultants and volunteers to work with here in Framework, I find myself looking for a particular standard.
In thinking about this, I realize that my standards are similar whether I am looking to hire a copy-editor to review a single article, or someone to lead programs to CEO's of critical client companies.
There are certain basics that I look for, and the best business-partners are those who are able to match my own commitments to the following cornerstones, which I would call "The Unreasonable Commitments":
- An Unreasonable Commitment to Keeping Promises
This is especially true for basic practices such as starting and ending events on time, keeping due dates and working as hard as possible to create an environment in which everyone keeps their promises, and acts as if their word is an important part of who they are. They are careful in what they give their word to, because they treat the act as an almost sacred one, even when it seems to be unimportant. They break their promises infrequently, and only under duress.
- An Unreasonable Commitment to Mastery
I like working with people who love what they do, and give 100% of themselves as often as they can. They are always looking to learn and master their craft, and are willing to practice the basics over and over again (a la Tiger Woods) for smaller and smaller gains that add up to greater expertise in whatever they might do.
- An Unreasonable Commitment to Communication
There are some people who can be counted on to reply to business email, and to keep channels of communication open with those who they consider to be business partners. They just don't drop off the radar of others, and work hard to stay in touch. They know that "80% of success is showing up" according to Woody Allen.
These are "Unreasonable Commitments" not because they are all that crazy, but just because in the Caribbean environment it may well be that no-one else is willing to keep these commitments.
Make no mistake about it -- our regional companies are (in general) operated at lower standards than the average international companies. There are a few exceptions, it is true, but they demonstrate the rule.
Individuals that insist on these three commitments will appear to be "Unreasonable" simply because they are operating very, very differently and it might be hard to understand at first why a consultant should be on time even when the client never is.
On a slightly different note, my wife insists that it is easy to make money in Jamaica. All one has to do in business is the basics -- return phone calls, answer the phone, be a little pleasant most of the time, keep the most basic promises and stay in touch in some way.
I think she has a point.