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Having Effective Rules

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Does your company have a set of rules to follow? Do you and your co-workers actually abide by them? If not, you’re not alone.

When I see an organization or a team with rules that are not being followed, it usually reflects a weakness in leadership. Not just because the rules are not being followed, but because the rules exist in the first place. Unfortunately this is too common.

Rules are created to keep people safe, to provide guidance for actions, and prevent mistakes. In many cases, broad rules are created in reaction to specific incidents. For example, if an employee spills a beverage affecting their workplace, a rule may be created to prevent employees from drinking beverages. There may be locations in the workplace or types of work where the presence of beverages is not a potential accident, or using beverage containers with lids would be effective. Yet a rule is created covering the entire workplace.

This occurs because an ineffective leader views the new rule as the easiest to manage. A stronger leader would create a rule that supports the employees drinking beverages but at the same time protects the workplace. This rule would be more difficult to define and manage. But it also becomes a rule that people will actually follow.

effective leader

© Flickr user SandCrestSEO

Ineffective rules result in an unhappy workforce, or a workforce that ignores the rules. This is not an employee problem, it is a leadership problem. As a leader, you must enforce the rules. If you don’t think the rule should be enforced, then work to change the rule. All of this takes more effort. That is why we continue to see broad, ineffective rules in many workplaces and organizations. If you want effective rules, you need to be an effective leader.

So what does it take to make a happy workplace? One where workers enjoy showing up and listen to management? Jack Klemeyer shared some tips in an AccelaWork article about having effective communication with employees. A couple of his tips caught my eye and really reflect what a leader needs to do in order to enforce rules:

Take responsibility for the message conveyed:

Don’t make the assumption that every person in a room will hear you in the same way. It is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that each person listening has a clear understanding of the message. We have all played enough “Broken Telephone” to know what can happen if a vague message gets passed down the line. The Gallup Organization tells us that employees want to “know what is expected of me.” If you’ve told them, tell them again and then check to make sure what you said is what they heard.

Do It Now:

Make a plan and take action. Take a minute to write out what you want to have happen and what you will do to make that happen with your communication. Then do it! One of the tools I use with a team to give their communication a “check-up” is the Leadership Game. Good ideas are easy, but it is the leader who can get them across quickly and effectively. A leader will make things happen and the things that happen will be good things. After all, isn’t that what good leaders do?

It helps to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Would you listen to rules set by someone who doesn’t communicate well? Keep your employees in the loop. Include them on new information as it comes along and ask for other people’s input. People who feel valued in the workplace tend to give their best!

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Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown is an executive coach who is passionate about personal development. He works to make a difference in people's lives by empowering them with skills and knowledge that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. Mark has been coached, mentored, and certified by John Maxwell and his team. This coaching certification allows Mark to successfully coach and train individuals, groups, organizations, and companies.
Mark S. Brown


Executive and Business Coach at New Roads Leadership. A founding partner of the John Maxwell Team. We coach for your personal success!
Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown

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