Make Them or Break Them – What Rules do for Accountability

A good rule is a beautiful thing.

I love rules because they define the systems in our business. By defining the boundaries of what we can and can’t do, the rules give us the freedom to everything else, and anything else, within those boundaries

And here’s the thing – most of the time our ideas don’t go anywhere near those limits. If our outrageous and outlandish – and courageous – ideas drive us closer to achieving our vision, then we can implement them.

Having said that, the limits that the rules define are equally important. Rules are reckoning tools – they are tools you use to hold your team to account. You see, there are two ways that you can drive results in your business:

  1. You can push for an outcome using sheer willpower. You’ll end every day exhausted and you’ll watch performance decline as everyone else’s will slowly chips away at yours, or…
  2. You can put rules in place that guide your team towards the vision, and away from distractions, mistakes and pitfalls. It’s systems thinking – you create the system to achieve the vision, then you work inside it. And you hold people to account when they deviate – no more excuses.

Sometimes a good idea threatens to break the rules – making the rules look burdensome. The rules make the business hard to love because they are stopping us from doing something great.

At times like this, it’s time to ask if the rules are still aligned with the values of the business. Maybe the values have shifted. Maybe the vision has shifted and the rules no longer point us in the right direction.

Rules like this are bad rules. They’re the rules you need to break. Actually, ‘break’ is the wrong word – if the idea takes you towards your vision, and the rule doesn’t, then the rule needs to change.

To change.

As leaders, it is our job to create, and evolve, the environment that produces the work. We must also be approachable and flexible. Don’t be the boss who insists on enforcing a bad rule. Be a leader who listens and whose staff can tell you when a rule is getting in the way of your vision. If they’re right, then change the rule.


Next in the accountability series: Excuses and LIEs – what are they good for?

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