Thursday, August 13, 2009

Setting Rules

Any rule that is stupid enough will be widely broken.

As a leader, are you careful about the rules you set?

Leaders are often tempted to establish control where they see chaos. "What these people need are some strict rules..." The problem is, how would you feel about living with rules set by someone else that totaly restricted your flexibility at doing your job?

Sure, rules are necessary. How you arrive at those rules though is critical. Are you involving your people? Are you allowing for change? Are you building in flexibility? Are your rules in harmony with your vision and your values?

I remember a great line from an old TV show starring Ed Asner, "Lou Grant". He once said "I don't have a lot of rules because then I just have to enforce them..." which sums up the problem with rules. Lou Grant was a role model for the classic tough boss, but what we came to know as an audience was that he also had a heart of gold. He was using his heart when he realized that establishing too many rules (or rules that were too strict) just didn't make good business sense.

Far more useful and effective than rules are agreements. When leaders take the time to collaborate on agreements, they discover that their people are invested in the results and in harmony with the process. There's no need to rebel against an agreement you've helped to create -- in fact the opposite is true: the more involved we are in reaching agreements the more we are committed to keeping them.

How are you at setting rules?

What's your process for enforcing rules?

Do you guard any rules that are unnecessary?

Have you explored the differences between reaching agreements and setting rules?

-- Doug Smith

1 comment:

  1. Found this relevant piece from the BNet article, "Three Steps For Keeping Your Management Style Elegantly Simple":

    "Stick with simple rules: “The most desirable order might best be achieved not by demanding compliance to an exhaustive set of centrally mandated, onerously rigid regulations, but from one or two vital agreements … often found only at the core value level,” May writes. As an example, he discusses a GM plant plagued by absenteeism, even after draconian rules were put in place. Toyota then took over the plant and gave the workers two simple rules to follow: respect people and show continuous improvement. According to May, “Absenteeism dropped dramatically. Quality and productivity rose to record highs.”