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
  • Learning Excitement = Joy, Hope, Optimism and Enthusiasm

Yes, I definitely like that chain reaction better. Don’t you?


Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog, currently hosting Joyful Jubilant Learning 2006. She is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Lifehack.org with Aloha: A Year in Review

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