When we are building a team, we have different people with different perspectives coming together under a common goal. As a leader, you want your team to form a common understanding instead of just following rules to keep these perspectives alive.
I never was a friend of rules. Looking back at my professional life (including my education in school or university), if I could not see a reason, and others could not explain to me, why I should follow a rule, I did my best, not to. This doesn’t mean I broke every rule I encountered. This just means I was critically doubting every system I was part of. As soon as I started my professional life, this mindset turned out an asset.
Whenever I joined a team to work on a product, I wanted to know why I was doing what I was supposed to do. Sure in the beginning this was distrupting, especially when joining exisiting teams, which already had setup an elaborate set of rules. But in the long run it gave me and the team a common understanding and sometimes even hinted at gaps in existing rulesets.
When I grew into the leadership role, I learned that you need some kind of common understanding between you and the people on your team. Because otherwise what happens? You end up in situations where things are unclear and people aren’t sure how they should be reacting. In these situations, where no rules where defined, your team would be unable to act. They want to do a good job, but: If you’re not sure about what someone else expects from you, then how could you possibly meet those expectations? Let them know what you value, what you discourage and most importantly WHY it is that way. Make them understand.
What are the differences between rules and understanding?
1. Rules are about what to do. Understanding is about why you’re doing it
2. Rules are about what not to do, but understanding is about how to do it
3. Rules are top-down; understanding is collaborative and iterative
4. Rules define right vs wrong, while understanding defines good vs bad
As I’ve written in my post about setting boundaries to spark creativity, rules do not need to be a bad thing, when used with care. The rules should define the playing field, while the common understanding should control the game itself. This will allow all the individual people, with their own perspectives and skills, to bring the team forward towards a glorious common future. This will allow for everyone to use their creativity and strengths to the fullest.