Tripwire Removal

by Steven M. Smith · 7 comments

I have rules. You have rules. Teams have rules.

Rules trip up both individuals and teams causing unintended consequences.

We learn rules about such things as what we can do, what we can question, and what we can say.

A rule dictates behavior. But when transformed into a guide, it enables you to choose appropriate behavior.

Let’s explore three rules that trip up some teams and how they might be transformed into guides —

Rule 1: We must never force a teammate off the team

I admire your loyalty to your teammates.

Can you always retain a teammate? For instance, what do you do when a teammate is undermining the team’s productivity? (See my post Stop That Mole Now.) As productivity declines, letting this rule dictate behavior may unintentionally cause investors to lose confidence and stop investing.

Can you sometimes force a teammate off the team? If so, when is it appropriate or inappropriate to force someone out? Answering that question will help you explore the boundaries for loyalty so Rule 1 doesn’t limit or destroy the team.

The answers around boundaries can help transform this rule into a guide. Rule 1 might be transformed into a guide like — we can sometimes force a teammate off the team when their behavior is destroying productivity; or when we have insufficient funds; or when their skills no longer fit our mission.

This guide doesn’t force you to retain a teammate in all situations — it offers you choices.

Rule 2: We must always be fully transparent with our clients

I admire your desire to be open and honest.

Can you always be fully transparent to your clients? For example, will you tell a client about missing a milestone because a member of your team is an alcoholic and went on a bender? If I were the client, a disclosure like that would cause me to completely lose confidence in the team. The unintended consequence — you would lose me as a client.

Can you sometimes be fully transparent with a client? If so, when is it appropriate and inappropriate to be fully transparent? Answering that question will help you explore the circumstances where transparency fits as well for your client as it does for you.

For instance, exploration might lead the transformation of Rule 2 into a guide like — we can sometimes be fully transparent with our client when the disclosure helps the client; or when we analyze and accept the risk of our communication; or when our conscious won’t allow any other alternative.

The team now has more choices about how it communicates with clients rather than a dictate.

Rule 3: We must always placate our customers

I admire your desire to please your customer through subscribing to the adage, “The customer is always right.”

Can you always placate the customer? For example, will you let your customer’s business fail so that they can enjoy a temporary period where they think they are right but you know otherwise? I suppose that’s compassionate, but it’s unintended consequence is the loss of any future business.

Can you sometimes placate the customer? If so, when is it appropriate and inappropriate to placate them?

Exploring that question may lead you to transform Rule 3 into a guide like — we can sometimes placate our customers when they are having a crisis; or when we are lost and confused; or when they have gun to our head.

This guide generates some unsavory choices for me. But they are much better in my mind than the behavior the rule demands.

Clear the Tripwires

Rules often make life simpler and better. When they fit, they work well. But things change. When rules stopping fitting the team and where it is now — they often unintentionally limit or destroy the team.

Listen for the telltale words I/we must never… or I/we must always… When you detect they are in play, you’ve discovered a rule. State it precisely and transform it into a guide.

Remove the tripwires that are limiting productivity and threatening your team. Give your team choices rather than dictates.

What rule is your team tripping over? How might it be transformed into a guide?