What You Tolerate With Your Team Reflects on You and Company Core Values

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I recently heard a speaker named Eric Coryell, who spoke about creating and leading accountable teams. Among many other things, he said something that struck me, which was, “You get the team you tolerate.” Basically, if you only tolerate high performers with great attitudes on your team, then that’s all you’ll get. There isn’t room for anyone else. But if you tolerate under-performers, or people that don’t live out your established core values, then guess what? That’s the team you get and it is a reflection on you and company core values. Here are some tips to make sure that as a leader you don’t fall into the trap of accepting a sub-par team:

1. Know your “intolerables.” An intolerable in this case is defined as: 1) something that if done, or exhibited, you would not hesitate to fire someone over, or 2) something you would personally quit over, if the situation existed in the organization and wasn’t changed. Another way to ask it is “what do you stand for?” If you don’t know, ask for feedback from colleagues and team members who know you best. Most will happily give it to you.

2. Once you’ve identified #1, how do these revelations strike you? Do you tolerate things you shouldn’t, or are your intolerables a good litmus test to keep the right people on the team and the wrong people off the team?

3. Do you treat everyone on the team the same and apply rules and values equally and consistently? Or do you make excuses for one person but crucify another team member for the same mistake? When asked, would your team say they know where they stand with you at all times?

4. What have you been tolerating that you shouldn’t? It’s not too late to do something about it.

Just knowing what you stand for goes a long way towards developing a strong team because it allows you to identify the gaps between reality and where you want to be. In the end, you are not a victim to the team you lead, you control your own destiny by getting what you tolerate.


The Culture Counts blog is a discussion of law firm culture and legal innovation, including topics such as effective leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture, ideal work environment, company core values, and workplace productivity.  

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