I am particularly fond of this phrase about breaking rules. Indeed, in part it was the inspiration behind the title of my second book, Ice Cream for Breakfast: If You Follow All the Rules, You Miss Half the Fun (McGraw-Hill). And truly, if you follow every single rule, you may, in fact, miss, well, at least some of the fun. I don´t want you to get the idea that I´m minimizing the importance of rules in the workplace. But I am advocating a different way of looking at things, especially when it comes to developing your employees.
Sometimes, bending the rules-or even letting go of them completely in certain circumstances-gives us a fresh perspective, shakes things up some, and forces us to see the workplace through a slightly (or, in some cases, dramatically) different lens. Changing and breaking the rules can lead to ideas that ultimately can reshape the way we see our work, our customers, and ourselves. Plus, breaking the rules also can be the perfect antidote to the powerful force of stress.
Consider the counter-intuitive advice found in one of my favorite business books: First, Break All The Rules: What the World´s Greatest Managers Do Differently (Simon & Schuster) by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. These guys say that the really successful managers (hey, what does that mean to you? Successful managers-please post your comments . . .) spend the most time with their best people. But shouldn´t you spend time with the people who need it most? Well, that depends on your definition of "need." According to the authors, great managers see themselves as catalysts whose role is to turn "talent into performance." So they look around and see who´s got the most talent and then try to figure out how to harness and put that talent to work. Your best people are usually the ones who have the talent or at least show that they have the talent.
Here´s a homework assignment: look around at your employees and look for just one characteristic-talent. And then ask yourself what you´re doing to develop that talent. What opportunities are you presenting? What obstacles could you remove or at least minimize? Are you showing your best people how to approach those obstacles? Determine, too, if you´re doing what you can to let people know what you expect of them. Do they have any incentive to stretch? And are you doing a good job of recognizing their talents? Remember, everyone needs a pat on the back-not once a month but more frequently. And if you think your best people know that they´re your best people, think again. If you were left alone with your talent, wouldn´t you begin to wonder after a while if anyone cared?
As I suggested earlier, rules have their place. Don´t borrow my stuff without asking and then, please, if you do take something (without asking), put it back so I won´t know. But seriously, I´m not talking about the rules that keep companies going and growing. I´m merely suggesting that you look at things from another perspective and question the conventional wisdom that has brought you where you are today. Indeed, it might have brought you to a successful point in your company´s life. But maybe, just maybe those old (could be just a year old) ways of doing things are holding you and your employees back.
Let me know.