A Tolerance Process

Earlier this year, I wrote about the role and impact of tolerance in your leadership (and life), offering this truth:

“Your leadership, your culture, your relationships and your impact are not defined by what you preach, but by what and who you tolerate.”

Since first sharing this perspective over a year ago, I’ve gotten a great deal of feedback from people saying that, while difficult to admit, they’re realizing how true it is. I’ve also heard from many people that they’re seeing the many ways that tolerance is keeping them from achieving their professional and personal objectives. In fact, the things, people, situations and behavior that you tolerate in your life and leadership have the most profound impact and are the biggest obstacle to you having what you want and achieving your objectives.

Because I’ve gotten so many questions about the role of tolerance for relationships, teams and organizations, I decided to share once again the process that I’ve developed for addressing and differently navigating your tolerance factor. The following six step assessment process will help you explore and assess your tolerance (your “T” factor) and, hopefully, inspire you to take different action in the future.

  1. Assess the Tolerance– This involves getting clear and honest with yourself about exactly what you’re tolerating. This is not the time to focus on the reasons or excuses for the tolerance – just be honest about what exactly you’re tolerating in people, situations or behaviors. It’s also critical that you be specific in delineating the tolerance.
  2. Assess the Impact – While this may seem like an easy process, most of you have never gotten clear on all of the scope and depth of the impacts that are flowing from your tolerance. This again is time to be really honest, clear and specific about the impact (direct and indirect) that your tolerance is creating.
  3. Assess the Risks – This relates to the reasons and excuses that you’ve been making to justify your tolerance. We typically tolerate things, people and situations because of the risks and fears associated with taking action to reduce or eliminate whatever is being tolerated. The best question to ask for this part of the process is “Why am I choosing to tolerate this person, situation or behavior?” Focus on the risks – what you’re afraid might happen – of ending the tolerance.
  4. Assess the Win – This is something that many of you never do when it comes to tolerance. This involves focusing on the wins (the benefits) that will occur if you choose to reduce or eliminate the tolerance. In other words, in what ways will things be better without the tolerance? 
  5. Consciously Choose – Now that you know the real costs of your tolerance, what the risks and fears are, and what the wins / benefits of reducing or ending the tolerance are, it’s time to choose. Consciously choose whether to continue the tolerance or to take different actions to eliminate or modify the tolerance. Most of your tolerance is happening without you ever fully contemplating the foregoing, and once you have gotten this far in the assessment process you’ll be in the best position to make a clear choice – to continue to tolerate or to eliminate the tolerance. At a minimum, you’ll now be making a clear decision instead of a default reaction to people, situations or behaviors.
  6. Let It Go – This is a big one – once you make a clear and conscious choice regarding your tolerance, even if you decide to continue with the tolerance, let the decision go and live with it (and its impacts). Once you’ve consciously decided to continue with tolerance, there’s nothing more to fret about or contemplate – you’ve decided to tolerate and to experience the impacts. While your tolerance has impacts, it makes no sense to continue to worry about your tolerance if you’re consciously choosing to tolerate with full awareness of the impacts, risks and potential wins. Let it go!

That’s it – a systematic approach and process to assessing your tolerance, the drivers of it, the opportunities beyond it, and the opportunity to make a clear choice. That’s what leaders do in their businesses, with their teams and in their lives. 

You may continue to tolerate, but take this big step forward by fully and honestly assessing your tolerance. Claim your leadership by owning your tolerance, and decide!

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  1. Kimmie Durham says:

    Spot On!
    Thank You, Jeff for sharing your wisdom!

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