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The Standard is the Standard

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

I enjoy reading about coaches of all sports while learning how they achieve their success. Shawn McVay, of the Los Angeles Rams, is one of those coaches. The NFL has been a part of McVay’s life since the beginning. His family has been on staff as coaches or in management positions for years. 



When McVay was hired to coach the Rams, he established the four guidelines that are now the foundation of the program:

The standard is the standard

Situational masters

We not me

Our rule—be on time


The rules may look simple, but in life these four rules are not all that simple. After thinking about these four principles, I have come to the conclusion that you can boil it down to one matra: “The standard is the standard.” Only five words, but it is not that easy. Here are a few ideas on these five words.


If the standard is the standard, then everyone in the organization must know exactly what “the standard” is. Someone has to establish standards in every facet of what they do.  Every business or sports team has many moving parts. In regards to our football team, this means that we have to establish what our standard is. I asked the coach for each position to sit down and write three “standards” for their players. If there are too many standards, they can be forgotten, too complicated, or ignored by the organization. But with three, the standards can be focused and measured. Living by “the standard is the standard” means they must be clear for the overall success of the team.


If the standard is the standard, then everyone from the top to the bottom of the organization must be held accountable. A leader’s job is not finished when the standards are set. The hard part of leading is making sure the standards are met. When the standards aren’t being met, leadership involves confrontation. On our team, we say “be on time”. What happens when a player is late and what if it’s our best player?  Would it be ok if the best player had a flat tire? What if our best player doesn’t believe the rules apply to him? Great teams have a process in place to handle situations that arise in the day-to-day operations. The standard is the standard for everyone. No one is exempt, too good, or too important to be held accountable.  


If the standard is the standard, it does not change when times are good or when times are bad. Human nature makes us willing to look the other way when life is going our way. It is interesting that human nature also makes us look the other way when life gets rough. We tell ourselves, even though we are not preparing according to the standard, we have been doing really well, so we let it slide. There is also a tendency to give ourselves a pass when times are hard. We will tell ourselves things like, “We have worked really hard and still lost three games in a row. If we hold them to the standard now, our guys might give up.”  I know this happens because I have done both examples.


Over a period of time, successful individuals and organizations learn to stay true to their standards. The reason there are few great teams, great businesses, and great organizations is due to it being brutally hard to be consistent, year in and year out. The standard is the standard is easy to say, but it is a lot more difficult to live it on a daily basis.  

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