This is the old lesson, but the one we need to learn over and over again. As managers we’re all about rules. We work like this and not like that. We do things in such and such way. We expect people to act like this. We forbid other behaviors.
Nice. We can do it even worse trying to formalize all these rules.
We need the rules not without a reason. If I want to be fair for more than a hundred people in my team I just can’t make every decision on the fly. Otherwise people would feel they’re treated randomly and the outcome of our discussion depends mainly on my humor or on the weather or whatever. If I want my judgment to be consistent over time I need to develop a set of rules, either formal or informal ones, so I can refer to them each time.
The problem starts when we set these rules and never question them. Actually every time we trigger any rule-based decision we should take at least a few seconds to ask ourselves whether the rule is still reasonable or it is already good time to adjust it.
Over past few months I could share a number of examples when I challenged and eventually changed my rules. Either because it appeared the rule didn’t work well or it had unplanned side-effects or there was a lot of resistance.
And this is exactly how it should work. Our training policy was considered too harsh? Fair enough, we’ve just changed it. Recruitment process was considered sub-optimal? It doesn’t work that way anymore. We had a clash with managers regarding sharing specific information among them? Well, I won’t fight with everyone, so forget about this issue.
The lesson here is: challenge your rules. Leading people isn’t about setting and following rules. It’s about adjusting to the situation.