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In his book “Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell recounts New York City’s efforts to eradicate rampant subway crime. Tipping Point is the story of little things making a big difference and the little thing for Subway crime control began with a plan to simply erase graffiti from subway trains.

Subway safety can’t solely be attributed to the elimination of graffiti yet it was an important part. Psychological studies indicate that graffiti signifies a lack of rules.It signals anarchy. Subway graffiti was a signal to petty crooks that regular rules of society did not apply here.

When I was a turn-around CEO one of my first policies instituted upon joining a “failing” team was a “No Graffiti” policy. In business that meant zero tolerance for lateness. Meetings start on time. People meet their commitments. There are consequences for missing them.

No graffiti for my team meant no graffiti for me. I had to model and adhere to the behavior I was dictating. I wasn’t on time for anything… I was early for everything. When I made commitments, I delivered early and if I was going to miss a deadline, a commitment to the team, I made sure they knew well in advance that there was an issue and the cause.

So here’s the question, here’s the point… how much graffiti have you tolerated in your office?  Be aware of sloppy execution.  Be aware how you show up at work. Think about the signals you’re sending. Set an intentional tone. Create an intentional culture of high performance.

If you’re the one writing on the wall, how can you judge others by their urban art? If you’re tolerating graffiti you’re an enabler of sloppy execution. We get the culture we tolerate….. wipe out graffiti in the office.

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