Trump those Old Rules with Your Values

Preface: If you are an Alaka‘i Manager learning the 9 Key Concepts of Managing with Aloha, this posting deals with several of them:

  • MWA Key 3: Value Alignment
  • MWA Key 4: Role of the Manager
  • MWA Key 6: ‘Ohana in Business
  • MWA Key 7: Strengths Management
  • MWA Key 8: Sense of Place
  • MWA Key 9: Unlimited Capacity

Old Rules, your days are numbered!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of one-on-one coaching lately. People are reaching out for help as they encounter the new world of work, and I’m happy to help as I can.

We always start with them describing their ‘new world’ for me, and I’m consistently amazed by how many old rules remain in play, erecting these obstacles that people struggle to understand. Thus, most of the coaching I offer has to do with managing up, and building better relationships with the people they feel are in charge, and in control at their workplace.

Our goal is always positive movement forward: We want to forge a better workplace partnership for them, and more often than not, the boss-employee relationship is the one we address.

Old rules are dispensed by old-thinking managers. By worn out, tired managers. By lazy and careless managers, and managers who are stick-in-the-mud stuck.

Surely those managers are not you!

If you are a manager, please stop for a moment’s self-reflection: Are there any old rules you’ve allowed into your workplace culture just because they’re convenient, historical, or worse, because you haven’t updated, replacing them with one of your own value-based rules?

A healthy workplace culture isn’t created by rules. It’s fostered by the managers who map out that culture’s movement with relevant values (e-book link), and then allow common sense to rule.

An old rule is a sacred cow which keeps fattening itself up in your pasture, lazily eating your resources and tromping through your meadowland, even though it won’t reciprocate in any way, and won’t contribute to the worthy cause of your business. It’s not a dairy cow, it’s not a beef cow, it’s not the father or mother of a hopeful generation. It’s a costly, expensive drain on the character and health of a place — a scar on your sense of place.

Used Cows for Sale

Alaka‘i Managers know they simply can’t afford sacred cows. Not now, not ever.

Sometimes, old rules are self-inflicted. People assume they have to follow them, when in fact, they don’t. No one else notices (no manager cares enough), and people continue down the wrong path. It’s a path paved with frustration, and one road block after another.

Issues define problems. People define potential.

Here’s an example.

In most organizations large enough to have different divisions, there’s been a long-standing old rule that “we don’t transfer problems.” It started with good intentions (most rules do) connected to keeping buck-passing out of the workplace with the culture-driven, value-aligned encouragement to own your problems, confront them head on, and solve them in a way that completely ferreted out any deeply rooted causes. If a problem or issue started with your division, chances are you remain closest to it; your team is likely the best team to address it.

Here’s where that old rule went wrong: We didn’t keep it focused on issues. We applied it to people who didn’t fit in the team or boss-subordinate equation for some reason, and it became an unspoken HR rule everyone towed the line with: ‘Problem people’ weren’t ever transferred either — and more often than not, they can be, and should be as a strategy of optimal workforce development; abundant choice is one of the advantages of larger organizations!

Misjudged people have become our good people souring in poor places, feeling hopelessly stuck or stereotyped. They never had a chance with finding their right fit and new lease on life elsewhere in the company — they were ignored or put out to pasture with progressive discipline, and their true strengths were never revealed. Their managers were tacitly allowed to dismiss them.

It’s been tragic, and still is, the number of times someone representing a wealth of experience and future potential is named a “problem child” because their manager fails to create a powerful partnership with them, and no one else will give them a chance. We are seeing how this old rule turned assumption keeps fresh talent out of hiring as well, because of the chronic dysfunction in the referral process: We still see scarlet letters on applicant chests, and fail to question the other people who put them there.

Coaches like me do a lot of Ho‘ohanohano work with giving people their dignity back: We have to convince them they aren’t broken, that they are strong and worthy, and they do have the talent, skills, and knowledge someone in their world is just chomping at the bit for. We get them to own it and bring it as a golden partnership ready to happen, and happen quickly: We help them define these things with useful and relevant clarity, so they can apply them with a positive outlook and renewed sense of optimism.

And not just coaches like me. That’s what ALL Alaka‘i Managers do.

“People catch their own weaknesses.
Your job, is to catch and encourage their strengths,
and those strengths aren’t usually clear.”
Failure isn’t cool. Neither is weakness

What other old rules are still roaming your workplace meadowland?

Beware of Invisible Cows

Question and freshen your rules constantly.

Rules can be good. For instance, I use them to clarify our managing and leading verbs, but if you use them, honor them in a Language of Intention. Be sure they’re YOUR rules and not assumptions you’ve allowed into the culture which were actually inherited from someone else’s intentions and values.