To be honest, I have an odd relationship with “Rules”! On one hand, rules are necessary as they help to set and maintain order, protect people from themselves and others, and ultimately provide some form of structure that makes our surroundings make sense. On the other hand, no one ever achieved anything great by following the rules to the tee! Boundaries must be pushed, rules must be broken, and consequences faced in order for evolution to occur… hence electricity, the airplane, the evolution of sports, and business, etc!
If you’ve followed my Leadership & Work/Life Harmony books, videos, and trainings you know I share my rules as part three of my Leader’s 3:
- Be punctual
- After 3-4 emails about the same thing; let’s get on a call to clean it up
- Please accompany your problem with a suggested solution
Although effective and culture-impacting, The Leader’s Rule of Thumb is something different! It involves knowing your organization’s rules and policies, and following them… but most importantly, having your OWN rules… ones you create, adhere to, and stand by that protect your reputation as a leader, your people, and your organization! So, what are mine? What are yours? And, how do you do it?
Whether you like them or loathe them, every company has rules and they may differ from organization to organization. Some may be clear and obvious; while others may be in need of evolution… especially in our new age of increased Hybrid and Remote Work. The point is to know what the rules are and follow them!
It may be difficult to lead, difficult to get promoted, and even more difficult to impact change when we’re constantly in the Principal’s Office… not impossible, but harder! In my early days as an employee, a rule I didn’t agree with was a rule that wasn’t meant for me. Because I was good at my job… I could come in late, slack off on paperwork, say anything, or do anything and there was no consequence. However, as time passed, change and transition began to set in… new leadership above me, I accepted a leadership position, and slowly entered the beginning stages of burn-out… my lack of adherence to company policy started to bite me on the butt and made it hard for me as new leadership began having tough conversations with me and it effected my ability to have tough conversations with those under me for exhibiting similar behavior!
As an employee, I also worked in companies with extremely different rules regarding Leader and Front-Line Fraternization. My first and second job out of college were in Mental Health Treatment Facilities… and there were times when an ice-cold beer at the local bar after work or on a Friday with coworkers meant everything and was so needed! At the end of a tough workday or Friday, you could see Supervisors and Front-Line employees lined up in a track stance ready to sprint to their cars and to the bar and take that first sip, let out a sigh of relief, decompress, share stories, and bond! We really appreciated and depended on one another for our safety and our impact on our clientele. Both Supervisors and Front-Line bonded like never before during those times and I still look back on that as one of my fondest memories of working back then!
As I winded down my career as an employee, I worked in a sales position and the experience was quite the opposite… I was a Front-Line Employee at that time and supervisors were not permitted to engage in outside-of-work activities with Front-Line. I had a great time with my coworkers at work, at their personal Holiday Gatherings, and still keep in touch with a few of them to this day. However, there wasn’t that bonding between staff and management. Regardless of my thoughts on the rule, their thoughts, or yours… know your company policy, follow it, and fight it as a leader through proper channels if you choose; being leader enough to know the pros and concerns of each side and offering your proposed solution for resolution or feedback!
Have Your Own!
As a leader, it’s not only important to follow company rules but also to have one or two of your OWN that protects your leadership, your reputation, and your organization! As a leader, you’ve done the job for a while and know there are some things they simply don’t put in the Employee Handbook. One BIG rule I’ve given myself as a professional speaker traveling the world speaking at conferences and company events is… when attending the pre and/or post-celebration of the event with the organization’s leaders and staff… my rule is ONE drink, in my room by 11:30pm, and calling my wife to say goodnight!
I’ve found this Rule of Thumb works wonders for me, my business, my reputation, and my marriage, Lol! I’m honored and overjoyed to be asked by companies to speak to their leaders and staff… many of whom may not have seen each other face-to-face due to hybrid and remote work. They’re there to have a great time, meet, greet, and enjoy the evening before kicking off training the following day. My job is AWESOME… I get to say hello, meet great people, answer questions, possibly take pictures, sign autographs, and meet as many of their people as possible before taking the stage the next morning or boarding my flight post-speaking/training. It would be hard to do this and/or maintain their respect if I’m slurring my words, intoxicated, involved in conversations or jokes I shouldn’t be, or staying out until 3:00am. It would also be hard to stay married gallivanting around the world, not calling, not saying goodnight to my daughter, and respecting my time away! Lastly, it would be hard to continue my business after disrespecting the organization and the people that brought me in… believe me… EVERYONE is always watching and bad news travels faster than good news… Be Mindful!
Another Rule of Thumb I instituted for myself in my early days as a manager (a manager, not a leader; they are two different things I breakdown in my book, The Leader’s Toolbox) had to do with my office door. If you’re lucky enough to have an office… you also have a door; this may be helpful. At some point, either due to the noise of the building or attempting to block off time to get paperwork done, I got used to the quiet and it eventually disconnected me from my team, my vision, and my mission. It also provided some of my manager coworkers a great place to hide out! They’d come, knock, enter, and hide out in conversation for a quick breather and chat that tended to turn into an hour conversation… Yes… you read that correctly! I said I was Managing; not Leading! As I started to evolve professionally, I self-imposed a Rule of Thumb to keep my door open! I made myself resist the authority I had to close the door, keeping me open to my staff, aware of ongoings, and professionally safe when working with individuals struggling with certain mental health issues!
Remember, “Have Your Own” is a self-imposed set of rules you follow and encourage others to adopt because it will protect and evolve your leadership and reputation… and that of those you’re leading! What Rule of Thumb have you created and imposed on yourself?
Protect Your People!
“Protection” is a word that’s often left out when defining leadership! As a leader, I believe it’s our duty to protect our people… our coworkers, employees, bosses, clients, and customers… even when it’s uncomfortable! The saying, “When you see something, say something” is one of my favorites!
I once conducted a training for an organization; they flew me out to a world-class hotel. The scene was movie-worthy, and the Kick-Off Event was amazing! Remember, my Rule of Thumb… ONE Drink and in my room by 11:30pm. Not everyone has that rule, and I could see the event begin to pick up pace, not in a bad way, but begin to loosen up around 11:00pm or so as coworkers mingle, converse, and enjoy. During this time, you may also begin to witness some people reach their limit. On this occasion, I witnessed a woman slurring as she introduced herself and then walking through the event alone. I remembered her name, found the event coordinator, shared my concern, and the woman was cared for and safely escorted to her room. I certainly didn’t want to get this woman in trouble at a job function, however it was not in me to ignore the countless other horrible things that could have happened to her if I saw something and didn’t say anything. I’d want someone to protect my wife that way, my daughter, someone’s mother, and their employee! If your Rule of Thumb protects you, your leadership, and your reputation…. Great… but it’s not enough. Do you have a Rule of Thumb that protect others and exhibits your character as a person and leader?
You now know a Leader’s Rule of Thumb … Rules don’t have to be this horrible thing that makes you so ridged you value equal over fair every time… and you’re allowed to have your own Rule of Thumb when it enhances not only your Leadership & Work/Life Harmony, but also that of who your leading and serving! Enjoy your journey!!!
“Your “Rule of Thumb” is a self-imposed set of rules you follow and encourage others to adopt because it will protect and evolve your leadership and reputation… and that of those you’re leading!” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
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