She’s late. Again. It’s only 5 minutes but it’s the principle of the thing. She knows the rules. It’s noticed by everyone on your team and how you handle it will send a leadership message to them all.
Any moment you attempt to influence, teach, calm, inspire, or motivate someone or negotiate, mediate, clarify, or reason with anyone… you are in a leadership position. Every action we take and every time we open our mouths (or choose not to), we have the opportunity to demonstrate effective leadership.
Effective leaders communicate with two objectives: clarity and inspiration. The title quote (from Andy Stanley) is a version of those two things: Rules (Clarity) and Relationship (Inspiration). Without both, leaders come off as either dictatorial and uncaring or passive and wishy-washy.
We live in a rule-based society. Speed limits, fishing licenses, chewing with your mouth closed. Rules of conduct govern our lives and, for the most part, maintain order and keep chaos at bay. Rules are the buoys we bump into as we mature and navigate down the water way of life which form our behavior and expectations. When you own, manage, or belong to a business, family, or organization, the rules of that organization create a culture, hopefully one of which you enjoy being a member. We often choose businesses to work for or organizations to join based on how we feel about their “rules” and culture: I work 40 hours a week… you pay me our agreed-upon wage; You abide by the rules of our employee manual (dress code, work ethic, job description)… I continue to employ you; You take out the trash and walk the dog every day… I pay your weekly allowance.
But whether we become loyal to that group, fight to remain a member, and champion them privately in our hearts and publicly out in the world, is another story. That is where “relationship” (inspiration) comes in.
We want to live and work with people who, for the most part, choose to be there because the culture and the relationships nurture and feed us and make our lives better. As a leader, you must be clear about your expectations and standards. This is your responsibility and your prerogative. I believe there is much to be gained if you can divorce your emotions from the communication of your “rules.” Be brief, be clear, and be neutral. Unapologetic is different than threatening or angry. Sincerity and caring is different than passiveness.
Great leaders also have a natural confidence that things will work out, either way. Most often they take the position that both can be right (no judgment), but it might not be a good fit culturally at this time. They don’t “hope” to sever the relationship but they don’t fear it either. Or at least they are confident they will survive and that confidence comes through in their communications.
Rules and Clarity: “If you choose to work with this team, the expectation is you will be here, in this room, with schedules and pre-checked charts, dressed for clinical operations at 7:45 a.m. every morning.”
Relationship and Inspiration: “Sara, the rules in our (my) practice are to be here, in this room, with schedules and pre-checked charts, dressed for clinical operations at 7:45 a.m. every morning… no exceptions. You were late again this morning and to continue to work with us you will need to be here ready to go at 7:45. I understand you have childcare issues and I’ll understand if this is not a good fit for your life currently and your other responsibilities which are understandably important to you. I want you to work here and I respect your commitment to your family. I’m hoping you can find a way to work this out. Please let me know if I can help you in any way to find resources or solutions. I’m very sincere in that offer and I know you’ll make the decision which is right for your life. Are there questions I can answer for you about this?”
This “relationship” part of the equation works best… well, when there actually is a relationship. If you really do care about understanding someone’s perspective and life goals, you’ve asked about it and listened to them. If you really do honor someone’s role outside your office, as a parent for example, then you’ve asked about their children and spouse, you know their names and are genuinely interested in them as a whole person. This is the piece that causes people to genuinely want to abide by the rules instead of having to abide by the rules.
Rules – Relationship = Rebellion
Rules + Relationship = Respect
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower