I’m a rule follower; I admit it.
Yet there is a whole class of rules that I find offensive: Simon Says rules.
A rule is a Simon Says rule if the only reason offered for the rule’s existence is Simon (or Bob or Kevin) says.
Simon Says rules grate on my nerves for at least three reasons:
They are lazy rules issued by lazy leaders.
I have to assume that Simon had some reason for issuing the rule. Why not share the reason with us followers? Too busy? Boo hoo. Take the time to lead or stop issuing rules. When a leader doesn’t say why a rule exists the followers usually make up a story, and they are often very wrong about the rules purpose and the leader’s motives. Acting on their wrong perceptions they can make destructive decisions while believing they are in full compliance with the rules. Leaders must take the time to say why when they issue and order or they’ll spend time explaining why once the problems start happening.
The are often derivatives of several other layers of “Simon Says” orders.
Too many times we hear, “Bob gave us this new because his boss Dan gave it to him and Dan got the rule from headquarters. No, none of them said why we should follow this rule. Yes, I know it contradicts what they told us to do yesterday. Maybe they will change the rule back next week. They usually do.” You can’t hear that many times before you want to give up on your whole organization. Rules often roll down hill, but good leaders don’t just take Simon Says rules; they turn them into stories. “We’ve got to write in active voice because when we use passive voice we cloud our analytical thinking and hide who is really to blame or who must take action. We can’t afford to hide behind our passive words any longer.” That’s much better than, “Write in active voice (because I say so).”
You can never tell in what cases Simon would prefer you didn’t follow the rule.
A Simon Says rule is “Drive at or below the speed limit.” Change that to “Drive at or below the speed limit you will stay safe and live a long life.” Now you know to go at or below the speed limit in most cases, and you know to drive slower when the road conditions are bad and go faster when you are rushing someone to the hospital. When leaders link simple rules with value statements they make the rules actionable.
If you lead, don’t issue Simon Says orders and if you follow, don’t settle for Simon Says orders.
Always ask why. If you don’t get an answer, create your own why statement and share it with your boss and your coworkers. Maybe your statement will be wrong. So what? I bet your boss will correct your wrong why version and then you’ll have much more information about the rule than you had before.
April says, “Drive change because you and the people you lead will be happier if you do.”