Rule books tell people what to do. Frameworks guide people how to act. Rule books insist on discipline. Frameworks allow for creativity.
Rules are limiting.
They are disengaging.
They can be soul and spirit crushing.
They exist because we don't trust our people, or feel they're incompetent. Either way, that's our fault as leaders. Don't pick those people for your team or get them off the team if need be.
Have you ever heard a story of inspiring greatness that started with "boy they followed the rules like champs". Of course not!
Don't give your people rules. That's where purpose and values come in.
Another reason rules are limiting. There will never be enough of them. The world is changing and evolving. Using a rule based approach requires adding more and more and more rules to account for new situations. But there will still never be enough.
Leading With Values, Not Rules
Adam Grant points out in his book Originals that a study found that ordinary children tended to have homes and parents with many rules. Creative and successful and original kids’ parents had only one rule, was typically related to physical safety, and focused more on values and principles instead.
For example, parents that regularly pointed out that being kind to ourselves and others was a value that gave their kids a decision-making tool versus a hard and fast compliance metric like "don't do that" or "stop" or just plain "no". That way in the future when the kid is faced with a situation where they have a choice of how to treat someone they will use the value of "being kind to others" and act accordingly versus if the situation is slightly newer or different they may just act how they were routinized without thought or having that specific trigger of parent saying "no".
The same can and should go for our organizations. The world is moving much faster and the bar is raising. We need everyone in every organization to be thinking, active participants if we are going to have more agile, responsive and successful organizations.
Howard Behar’s third principle of leadership is think independently. He says the person sweeping the floor should pick the broom. And that people are not assets and are human beings capable of achieving results beyond what is thought to be possible. He continues, “so we need to get rid of rules, real and imagined, and encourage the independent thinking of others and ourselves”.
Gov your people forward thinking principles, not rules. Encourage thinking and independent. And create safety for risk taking to enable high performance and innovation.
So let's break some rules!