I took my truck in to get the oil changed last week, and the attendant laid out the first rule:
“You have to put your keys on the dash.”
This rule made sense (I guess) when vehicles were started with a key. But my truck will start if the key is under the back seat. So I responded, “But my truck doesn’t use a key to start the engine.”
“Please put your keys on the dash.”
So I did. Not a big deal. But rules irk me. Especially dumb ones that are there just because.
I go through my life breaking rules. If I obeyed the rules (no solicitors on premises: I’m not a solicitor, I’m a person here to change your life!) I would have no career.
Of course I know we need some rules. But before you post another one, ask yourself these questions:
Is this rule making the lives of my best people easier or harder?
If the answer is harder, rethink it. If you’re making the lives of your best people harder, you’re building a bureaucracy. If you’re making their lives easier and their duties clearer, you’re providing important structure.
What would happen to our business if we just dropped that rule?
Would anyone die? Would we lose money? Would our best people cheer? Think that through.
Am I instituting a rule (and punishing everyone) to avoid having an honest talk with one offender?
Now we’re cutting close to the bone.
“Okay team, from now on, no one is allowed to eat while using any technology!”
Really of course we all know we’re talking only about George who regularly drips ketchup on the glass of the photocopier, but now everyone gets punished. Why not just talk to George?
Are you letting rules take the place of honest communication? Are you trying to control people instead of working to develop them so they don’t need to have rules about everything? Don’t let rule-making be a substitute for honest conversations.
And above all, don’t let the rules make you stupid. The old Nordstrom used to have one rule: “Do what you think is right and take care of the customer’s needs.” Pretty simple.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Thomas Edison:
“There are no rules here: We’re trying to accomplish something.”
Getting ahead is about getting started,