This week will be all about rules: five days and five posts to understand and appreciate rules in a working environment.
It is difficult to write on the subject of rules and rule making without coming across as a slave-driver.
This series of posts describes a system, tools that will help you create an efficient team. How you use those tools will make all the difference: if a line in a script can sound caring or threatening depending on how it is read by the actor, rules and their implementation can be made to feel like support or punishment depending on the model you create.
So don't balk at the idea of rules - just create a system that works for your personality, one that you are comfortable with. Authority doesn't have to be unpleasant for those under it.
There are three levels of discomfort when it comes to rules:
- Creating rules
In a group of people working together rules are necessary to ensure predictability, which increases team performance. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of creating rules, remember that the rules you are creating are not to empower yourself but to bring more success to the team. It should never be about you: it's not about making your life easier or your workload lighter.
If you get push back from the team it is likely because they don't see (or understand) the problem you are trying to solve. Show them the problem and then ask them how they would solve it if they were you ... but make sure you retain the authority to approve or adjust the rule to suit the needs of everyone.
- Applying rules
Once the rules are created you must ensure they are applied or you will make a mockery of the system. The best way to apply rules is to find team members who are supportive of them and let them evangelise the rules to the rest of the team,
Another way is to create the rules alongside the team so you get buy-in from the start and you have less chasing to do to ensure the rules are applied.
However, at times you are going to have to nudge those who ignore the rues (sometimes deliberately, to test the system). Don't take it personally, it's human nature to test limits. Usually, gentle, regular reminders is all that is needed, with the occasional update to ensure the rules are still useful and relevant.
- Punishing/Applying consequences
Rules without consequences are useless so you're going to have to define consequences for breaking the rules (here's that slave-driver language again). This doesn't have to be as bad at it sounds, and the best rules are those that are enforced with natural consequences rather than external constraints - so for example arriving late for work could mean not being assigned tasks that require accuracy rather than making them stay later after work.
Find what matters to people as team members (not personally) and work that into the consequence.
Make sure the consequences are known and provide regular feedback on how people are doing so that it doesn't come as a surprise when they learn they have been breaking a rule.
Rules are necessary in a team environment, but they do not have to be punishing, painful or covered in red tape. Find the level of control that you are comfortable with and build on that. In the end, the best rules should benefit the whole of the group, not just a select group of people.