Rules are the kind of thing you love when you want them, and hate when you don’t.
More often than not, my advice to managers is to avoid the urge to set them. The only exception I can think of on the pro side of writing rules are The Real Rules of Engagement because they save so much squabbling and disrespect within work teams, helping them get to the business at hand quickly and efficiently.
Normally however, this is the flowchart that comes with setting rules in the work environment of today:
Rules = Lack of Freedom
Lack of Freedom = Stifled Initiative and Creativity
Stifled Creativity = Lack of Inspiration
Lack of Inspiration = An Absence of new Ideas and Innovation
The Absence of new Ideas and Innovation = Mediocrity, Complacency, Apathy and Boredom
Pretty gloomy prospect, don’t you think?
So what should managers be replacing rules with? Clear expectations and well-defined successful outcomes.
Great managers define what success will look like, and why that success will be meaningful, but then they get out of the way, allowing people to create how that success can be attained. They allow them the creative license and the freedom in decision-making which will liberate and self-motivate them.
Then, the flowchart begins to look like this:
No Rules = The Freedom of Creative License
Creative Freedom = Inspired Energy
Inspired Energy = An Abundance of new Ideas and Innovation
Bountiful Ideas and Innovation = Learning Excitement