Today I broke the Rules!
What rules do you live by? Are they serving you well or getting in the way?
Rule 1 – Don’t park in the Managing Director’s Car Space
Visiting a company today I parked in the Managing Director’s overly sized car parking space. The receptionist appeared from nowhere at breakneck speed to tell me that I couldn’t park there. 2 executives appeared to rearrange their cars making space for my car. It transpired that the Managing Director was on holiday and of course when I left some two hours later the overly sized space remained stubbornly empty. I smiled to myself and wondered just how many executive man hours were lost in this and similar mini dramas during the course of a normal week.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIIFz-0Zv8I Barry Cannister on Car Parks
Rule 2 – Always carry lots of cash in China
Some Chinese friends told me recently that in China it is customary to carry large amounts of cash on your person just in case you have to pay for something in an emergency. For example, should you happen to be involved in a minor road traffic accident it is common practice to settle payment at the scene – no need for lengthy insurance claims!
Rule 3 – Act like you are old when surrounded by others who think they are
Some time ago I was staying in a small family run hotel whilst training. As I was having dinner I watched a group of elderly people gather at the bar. From the conversation it transpired that this was a regular Wednesday night event and an opportunity for the group to get dressed up and get together for dinner. I watched with delight as the waiter indicated that dinner was about to be served and each lady took the arm of a gentleman to lean on as they walked slowly to the end of the dining room. One lady who appeared to have a limp and walked particularly slowly, on reaching the table, realised she had left her drink in the bar. She turned on her heals and all but ran back to the bar to retrieve her drink.
Rule 4 – Vastly over interpret Health and Safety Regulations and remove any propensity people may have for common sense
Working in an over heated room in an organisation recently I asked if we could open a window. The window was at about thigh height and about two feet square. The request was met with horror from a delegate from the HR department who exclaimed ‘someone might fall out’. Unless they were pushed with an almighty shove this was highly unlikely.
Rule 5 – Never press the button on a pelican crossing in case it upsets the drivers
Paul had an extreme ‘others’ pattern (check out the on-line metaprogramme profiler to discover patterns which may be behind your own personal rules) and would wait for a gap in the traffic rather than press the button and risk upsetting the drivers.
Rule 6 – Check every e-mail 5 times before sending it and twice afterwards
Bob came to us with a time management problem. It’s easy to see why when you expand this rule into all areas of his work.
Other rules we have come across –
All these behaviours are the result of rules we set for ourselves both as individuals and as groups in society. Rules generally evolve through a need for safety at some level. Sometimes they are useful, for example road traffic rules evolved from a need to keep us safe on the roads after the advent of the motorcar. Sometimes, however we make rules for ourselves which don’t serve us well and may have a negative impact on those around us. Rules have a habit of creeping up on us, transferring from one person to another like a disease and before we know it can become part of a societal or organisational culture whether we meant them to or not. So how do they come about?
How Rules Evolve
Whether rules are made for ourselves or for our organisations the process is generally the same. Here is an example –
Stage 1 – You have an experience eg, your manager rejects an idea
Stage 2 – You form an opinion which requires some form of action eg, no point in offering new ideas so won’t bother in future
Stage 3 – You share your opinion with others
Stage 4 – Others take on board your opinion and cease offering ideas
Stage 5 – It’s in the culture!
In this example not only do you have an unwritten rule for yourself – not to offer ideas to this particular manager - but over a period of time the rule has become adopted by those around you. This may appear simplistic but you are probably making new rules for yourself daily – rules which can often be based on very little evidence but which can have a major impact on your behaviour and on those around you. If all rules evolve from a need for safety it stands to reason that in this example the rule is protecting you from further rejection.
In my car parking example above everyone involved was operating from a need for safety – the receptionist and the two executives fearing for their jobs and the Managing Director using status for fear of who knows what.
What personal rules do you have? Who do you make a point of including in your plans and who do you make a point of avoiding? What do you believe or not believe about your organisation, your colleagues, your family and friends or your own ability to achieve something? What rules have you made as a result of these beliefs? Write them down and ask yourself some questions –
Where did the rule come from?
Do you still need it?
What is the need for safety that keeps the rule in place?
Do others share the rule?
What is the impact of keeping it? On you? On others?
If the rule is limiting your progress what would be a more useful rule?
Now look around your organisation at the written or unwritten cultural rules that are in place. Ask yourself the same questions. You will be surprised at what you will find just because personal and organisational rules have crept up on you. How many rules are actually dampening creativity and keeping your organisation from moving forward?
Have fun exploring your rules!
Quadrant 1 International