Rules don't work

03 mei 2021

As a leader, do you sometimes find yourself thinking;

  • Why are they taking so many coffee breaks?

  • How do I know that they’re actually productive while working from home?

  • How am I supposed to manage the budget when everyone is spending too much?

  • I’d like to give my people flexibility in working hours, but how can I make sure that no one misuses that freedom?

You’re not alone.

Anyone in a position of leadership often bumps into the hassle of.. well having to lead people. Even — and especially — when things don’t fully go as planned.

Now we’ve noticed that many leaders respond to frustrating situations by imposing rules.

Because rules are the way to correct and modify unwanted behavior.. right?

The conflicting truth about rules is that the more we impose them, the less they tend to be followed.

And this has a rather simple explanation, because imposing rules tends to imply that the people in question don’t know how to behave when left unsupervised... which in turn can create an unhealthy dynamic (much like a parent (rule-imposer) vs. child (needs-to-be-corrected) relationship!)

So what’s the alternative?

Because undoubtedly, you’d still like your people to be more respectful of timing when taking coffee breaks.

You’d still like to make sure that they are productive while working from home, and be mindful of the budget when eating out on the job.

Whenever you bump into one of these issues, try the following:

  • Ask yourself; Is everyone taking too many breaks/spending too much/being unproductive... or is it just a few people?

  • Then talk to the people that are causing the problem. Have the difficult conversation. Give feedback.
    Be clear about your boundaries and hold them accountable. (Without stepping into the parent role of course) ;)

This way you won’t have to come up with frustrating rules that “target the few but punish the many”, and we promise that your chances at changing the unwanted behavior will have increased significantly, too.

Good luck!

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