On a recent late night I found myself needing to wind down before sleep, I flipped on the TV and happened to catch the tail end of Rules of Engagement. The military action drama seemed so completely out of context for me, for without ever having seen the movie when it came out for the first time in 2000, the phrase “Rules of Engagement” had quickly caught on in our workplace a bit more literally.
For us, the phrase meant that work was not a spectator sport; it was one you participated in fully, going for the score every time. Further, we couldn’t afford to carry bench-warmers: When you came to work, everyone expected you to “suit up” and be fully engaged. Period.
That was the primary rule of engagement; that you did just that — engage and participate from the moment you clocked in. However there were some others that we felt were our ground rules of professionalism, and the fact that we all understood and agreed to them afforded us some basic efficiencies. Moreover, they kept unnecessary annoyances and many small petty squabbles out of our workplace, opening the door wider for aloha and only aloha.
Rules of Engagement
1. Engage. Participate. Be fully present. No auto-pilot.
2. Meetings and multiple appointments are a fact of work-life; the least we can do is be on time so they can start on time and our peers are not kept waiting.
3. Respect the attention of your peers. Come prepared means come prepared.
4. Always have a pen and paper for note-taking. First, you respect others who are giving you information by acknowledging it, and secondly you’re expected to capture it, and follow-up; forgetting is not an option.
5. Whatever your role is, you’re expected to be the expert in that role. Own it, and don’t be shy about it. Stake your claim proudly. (This was part of the no bench-warmers philosophy.)
6. When you say you’ll follow-up on something, do. If it’s not going to happen, say so. People trip when you sweep stuff under the rug.
7. Own up to your mistakes and be okay with them. Making mistakes is perfectly fine for we all make them. However huffing and puffing about them with excuses and justifications is not fine. Get over it (we already did) and just correct it.
8. Communicate. We have found that relying on mind-reading doesn’t work that well for us.
9. Trust and be trust-worthy. Much easier when Rules 1 – 8 are honored and we all keep it real.
They may seem obvious, however having Rules of Engagement can save heaps of time and wasted energy, and they can stem frustration. We purposely kept ours to less than 10 in a Q&D brainstorm one day that happened when someone had asked, “What are your pet peeves? What would make things so much pleasant here if those pet peeves went away forever?” and we committed to each other to do just that — make them go away forever.
Rules of Engagement. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Gather your folks together, and brainstorm your own, be they at work, at home, in your club or association, and on your sports or community team. Just imagine the bliss if everyone were to fully engage, participate, and be present.
Rosa Say, author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business