You Are What You Tolerate

have had the pleasure of working with many successful, good-natured, and pleasant groups. This was not one of those experiences.

I was working with an investment company and they were an impressive collection of folks. They were wicked smart and had extremely lofty credentials. Looking at this team on paper, they were a formidable group, but something was not adding up when I met with them in person.

In sessions, they were arrogant, pompous, and excellent at expressing their opinions and demonstrating how smart they were, but they were not speaking their truths, nor were they listening to one another. They didn’t take ownership of the issues they were having. They lacked trust and confidence as a team and quarter after quarter they kept failing to meet their goals. To put it simply, they were struggling.

After several sessions with them, I had about given up that they could ever change.  When Covid interrupted our cadence for about a year,  I was extremely skeptical when they asked to come back together for a session. I expected the worst but was quite surprised and impressed by the group in front of me. Most of the leadership team had been replaced, which transformed the entire culture of the group.


Throughout the session, I saw trust, ownership, healthy working relationships, ambition, and follow-through. They articulated an ambitious vision and they were building up courage amongst themselves to achieve their goal. By adjusting their team composition and ensuring they now had the right people in the right seats, the team was operating at a higher level.

The lesson in all of this: you are what you tolerate. Allowing negative behavior and obstructive traits pulled the team down and prevented growth. I stand in awe of where this team was and is now and how successful they have become.

The idea of being what you tolerate can be applied to different scenarios in all aspects of life. If you tolerate a poor attitude from your employees, if you tolerate lateness and disrespect, if you tolerate a lack of commitment… all of these things reflect back on you.

The exceptions you make, the actions you permit, and the values and goals that do not uphold show others what they can get away with and in turn, shows how you allow yourself, your employees and your company to be treated.

Think about your own life: what are you resentfully tolerating instead of actively celebrating?

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