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Are You Setting The Right Standards For Yourself?



Frequently we give ourselves too much leeway, allow ourselves to make excuses, and slip towards mediocrity. This is only human. No one is immune. Even at our best, darkness is always near.

What's critical is being able to identify when this is happening, and stop it in its tracks. But without a known baseline, how do we know where we stand, and how far we have to go?

Enter: the Navy Evaluation Report and Counseling Record

We are not soldiers, and our goals are constructive, not destructive or violent. But the miltary provides an abundance of leadership knowledge and training, forged and refined under the most extreme conditions possible. This evaluation regime distills it all into simple, easy-to-understand - but not attain - categories. 

The point that Jocko makes in his podcast (linked above) is, Think about the difference between a "3" and a "5". Being a "3" is not so bad, right? It's right in the middle! It's pretty good!

For example: in the first section, Professional Knowledge, a "3" is defined as: 

Strong working knowledge of rating, specialty and job. Reliably applies knowledge to accomplish tasks. Meets advancement/PQS requirements on time.

That's pretty solid! I'd love to work with a team full of 3's.

But remember: that's a 3. That's the middleMost people are ranked there. Basically, if you're a 3, you're average. Below 3? You're below average.

Next let's look at what constitutes a "5":

Recognized expert, sought out by all for technical knowledge. Uses knowledge to solve complex technical problems. Meets advancement/PQS requirements early/with distinction.

Sought out by all. Solves complex problems. Meets requirements early and with distinction. That's a leaderThat's a 5. 


Let's look at another example, "COMMAND OR ORGANIZATIONAL CLIMATE/EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: Contributing to growth and development, human worth, community." Here, a "3" is:

Positive leadership supports Navy's increased retention goals. Active in decreasing attrition. Actions adequately encourage/support subordinates' personal/professional growth. Demonstrates appreciation for contributions of Navy personnel. Positive influence on Command climate. Values differences as strengths. Fosters atmosphere of acceptance/inclusion per EO/EEO policy.

Take a second to appreciate the expectations here. This is average. This is baseline. And yet, part of the expectation is: "encourage/support subordinates' personal/professional growth". That's not even about you! It's about how you're impacting others! Now look at "5":

Measurably contributes to Navy's increased retention and reduced attrition objectives. Proactive leader/exemplary mentor. Involved in subordinates' personal development leading to professional growth/sustained commitment. Initiates support programs for military, civilian, and families to achieve exceptional Command and Organizational climate. The model of achievement. Develops unit cohesion by valuing differences as strengths.

Measurably contributes to the organization's goals. Involved in subordinates' personal development. Initiates support programs. The model of achievement.

At the 5 level, it's not about you anymore. It's about how you're contributing to the larger objectives. You're helping others grow. You're looking past the immediate challenges and setting up firewalls against future risks. You're embracing the differences in each team member's personality and leveraging them as advantages.

You're building your team to replace you, which enables you to focus on the larger perspective.

Here I'm talking about Decentralized Command and Detachment, which are principal elements in Jocko's pedagogy, but are outside the scope of this document. I encourage you to seek out his books, Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Command, as well as his podcast, aptly named Jocko Podcast.

The Professional Standards of Excellence

(name debateable)

Below, I've constructed a table based on the Navy's evaluation form. It's mostly the same, but I've tried to make it less military-specific, and more applicable to our business and personal worlds.

Of course, this doesn't only apply to work, or the military, or any one specific thing. Think about how to apply this to your life. Your relationships. Your family. Your training. And yes, your work. 

Character is what you do when no one is looking.

This quantifies that.

The Table

Please note: I've left in references to physical ability as a baseline for those who are able. It is in no way meant to imply that if one is disabled or less-able, that they are less qualified in any way.

(The editor is not letting me paste a table, so i've had to attach it as 2 images for now)




Look at that very last one: Constantly improves the personal and professional lives of others.

That's a great summary of what this table teaches us.

Doing a good job is the baseline

To truly be a leader, to be the best, to be 5.0, to be an eminently qualified human being: you must improve the lives of others. 

Not just once. 


That is what leadership is about.



Additional material


Kat Marketplace Partner Jun 25, 2019

I love it!

There are times when a 2 is an achievement to celebrate and an important milestone on the way to a 3. This is a great way to show progression over time.

I have worked in many workplaces where people seem to forget that "doing a good job is the baseline", at least until they ask for a pay-rise or apply for a promotion.

Like Max Cascone likes this

Good point @Kat . Part of the benefit of an objective, specific ranking system is that you can know where you stand at any given time. If you can identify an area of weakness, then you can work on it, and mark your progress. 

One thing I maybe didn't make super clear, in this distillation of Jocko's podcast, is that it's next to impossible to be a 5.0 in every single area. It's not realistic. But it's the having of an ideal to aspire to, and a low-limit to be aware of as well, that helps focus one's energies in productive directions. 


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