The Thing About Rules

From the time we were born our lives have been subject to rules. Sets of procedures and behaviors we’ve learned to adhere to.  Without rules, there would be chaos.

Right? Not always, and the emotionally intelligent businessman understands that sometimes our greatest advantages come from knowing which rules to adhere to, which need a bit of manipulation and  which to toss away.

All businesses need rules.  They create a standard.  A way of measuring our progress, so we have a lot of them.  Sometimes we establish rules, because rules have been imposed on us, and we need to create our own rules and protocols within our businesses in order to be in compliance with the greater ones.  Other times, we get to make up our own.

  • Some rules are explicit. We have rules about how to handle the hard stuff – recruiting, employees, protocols, invoicing, purchasing, contracting, cleanliness, and that’s well and good.
  • Some rules are implicit – implied rules of behavior that often involves the softer stuff – how to handle people, both our own (employees),our customers, and even ourselves.

That’s what I want to talk about today. Implicit rules.  The ones that leave a little wiggle room.

You’ve all heard the expression, “Rules were made to be broken.’  For me, it’s more a matter of flexibility.  Rules can be bent. They provide structure but are fluid. After all, rules were created by people and as we all know, one size doesn’t fit all and every situation is different. Rules also evolve over time.  Some rules that were valid years ago are not valid today.  Still, they remain ‘on the books.’

How do we know when to bend the rules?

While many may trust themselves to know when to bend the rules, they may not trust their managers, sales or customer service leads use their emotional intelligence to make the right decision. To them, I would say, if you trusted them enough to hire them, trust them enough to use their common sense, or let them go.

The only rules I know that were carved in stone were the Ten Commandments.

The rules we set in business are merely guidelines – to be modified, stretched or even changed to serve the greater good. Sometimes, the greater good even means you.

I can’t think of one, extraordinary entrepreneur who didn’t break the rules in order to create or build something that would not only benefit himself, but the world at large.

Here are my rules about rules. It comes from one of my mother’s favorite expressions: “Fair is fair.”

  • When the outcome of the situation will benefit both sides if you show more flexibility, do it.
  • When you want to do something different that goes against the grain of an established standard of behavior and is not self-serving, do it.
  • When you have to choose between following the rules or doing the right thing, always do the right thing.  Then, change the rules.

Here are 15 quotes that may change your perceptions about how rules work

  1. Any fool can make a rule – and any fool will mind it.” – Henry David Thoreau
  2. “The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.” – George Bernard Shaw
  3. “When everything else fails read the instructions.” – Anonymous
  4. “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”  – Dalai Lama XIV
  5. “Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind” – Douglas MacArthur
  6. “As a rule, I believe people shouldn’t follow rules; rules should follow people.” – Eric Michael Leventhal
  7. “There are no rules here, we are trying to accomplish something.” – Thomas Edison
  8. “I don’t go by the rule book? I lead from the heart, not the head.” – Diana, Princess of Wales
  9. “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” – Katharine Hepburn
  10. “It is a good idea to obey all the rules when you’re young just so you’ll have the strength to break them when you’re old.” – Mark Twain
  11. “Nordstrom’s Rules for Employees: Rule # 1: Use your good judgment in all situations There are no additional rules.” – Anonymous
  12. “Practicing the Golden Rule is not a sacrifice; it is an investment.” – Anonymous
  13. “When everything else fails read the instructions.” – Anonymous
  14. You are remembered for the rules you break.” – Douglas MacArthur
  15. Breaking the rules and challenging convention is in the DNA of every successful entrepreneur. Doing things differently and solving problems with new, innovative and fresh approaches are the very reason many start-ups are able to compete and sometimes outpace the established market leaders.” – Richard Branson

Have a good week!

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