The COVID-19 response is a great reminder about rules.

I don’t like rules. It’s not that I don’t like order. It is that I am wired to find the scenarios where the rules don’t work. I love discovering conditions where something other than the rule is better than the rule itself. And I especially love pointing out these exceptions in rule-heavy environments, like schools, libraries and school libraries. #stopshushingme

Suspension

All the rules that have been suspended during the COVID-19 crisis have been interestingly satisfying to me. They are evidence that rules are not really rules. They are general agreements we make for now. And when a change in conditions warrants, those general agreements will be unmade. Because we will have entered into the rule-defying scenarios I love to think about.

Over the past 2 months there have been an endless parade of rule changes. Rules about schooling, business, the Olympics, start dates, end dates and requirements of all sorts. Rules about drug trials, telemedicine and sports. Even rules about rules. Which makes this a ruley, ruley interesting time.

Current Conditions

Rules that prohibited employees from working from home went out the window when everyone was told they had to work from home. Rules about how long you can hold onto a library book, have changed. And church rules now say we can’t show up for Sunday morning service. Where was that rule when I was 12?

Taxes

I knew we were getting into interesting territory when the tax rules changed. Paying taxes, once one of the 2 certainties of life, along with death, has been pushed off for several months. At the same time, criminals are not serving time for breaking rules that typically would put them behind bars. And speaking of bars, the crazy rule is no longer that you can’t smoke in a bar. It’s that you can’t drink in one either.

Rule Flexibility

The closing of everything, and the extreme measures taken to combat the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 illustrate that rules can be changed whenever necessary to serve the greater good. So we must keep in mind that rules can also be regularly, and temporarily modified to serve the smaller, individual good.

Key Takeaway

Rules don’t rule. The people who make them do. And people can change the rules anytime to accommodate for unusual conditions. Which is a reminder for those of us who are charged with making and enforcing rules that we always have the flexibility to acknowledge the exceptions and respond appropriately, compassionately and creatively.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

My 10 Simple Rules For Business Success.

My 14-year old daughter Ava has been studying The 10 Commandments during her confirmation class. She has lots of questions. Like, ‘How did we arrive at these 10?’ (I said God and David Letterman decided.) And, ‘Which one is the most important of all?’ (I told her it’s the one about honoring thy mother and thy father.) Her many questions are hard for humans to answer. But they serve as great kindling for meaningful conversations.

Rules For Life

I try to live my life according to The 10 Commandments. I’m so-so at it. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t worshipped any golden calves. But I sometimes use the Lord’s name in vain. (Sorry Big Guy.) And I have definitely coveted my neighbors house. But come on, my neighbors have sweet houses!

Rules For Career Success

I love simple rules. And all of our recent talk about The 10 Commandments got me thinking about my own rules. So I wrote down my 10 rules for business success. Here’s my list. These are short enough enough to be carved on just one stone tablet. Which means that you could carry these rules and a gallon of chocolate milk at the same time.

10 Simple Rules for Business Success.

  1. Always do what you know is right.
  2. Develop and maintain strong relationships.
  3. Solve problems.
  4. Deal with the decision maker.
  5. Hire people whose results make you jealous.
  6. Collect Dots and Connect Dots.
  7. Add value.
  8. Focus for greatest results.
  9. Add energy.
  10. Start with the end in mind.
  11. Overdeliver.

Key Takeaway

It is important to develop a strong set of rules to help you perform your best. The rules serve as reminders, guides and inspiration. They stand as pillars that support great people and great performance. If you ever lose your way, go back to your rules. They will never let you down.

What are your go-to rules?

What pieces of career advice would you write in stone and have delivered by Charleston Heston? Please share in the comments section. Or send me a note. If you do I will create another post called The Top 10 Rules I Learned From Readers, and I will give you credit. It will be a collaboration. Like Band Aid, USA For Africa or Dionne and Friends.

The A-holes Rule.

I’m not a huge fan of rules.  Creative people as a species are naturally averse to them.  But if you want to develop a business with a strong culture you need some rules to guide you.

When I joined my first agency executive team our first order of business was to create some simple rules to govern the organization. Because we believed that a great organization is made of great people who enjoy working together the first rule we unanimously agreed on was the ‘No Assholes’ rule. For those not familiar with the rule, or the obviousness of the phrase, it means that your organization will not tolerate people who act like A-holes.

Preventing the A-holes from joining your team isn’t easy. Because they are on their best behavior in interviews. Sometimes we sniff them out (yeah, I said it). But often they sneak past our filters.  So as much as we try to prevent an A-hole from getting into our organizations in the first place, they get in. So now what?

You just get rid of them, right?  After all, no one likes an A-hole. Unfortunately it’s typically not that simple. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of talented A-holes. The drive, intelligence, confidence and will of a typical A-hole makes things happen. It’s common for them to make a quick impact and create immediate wins.

But that upside comes with an equally significant downside. Because A-holes are uncomfortable to be around, they drain morale and sap energy. The unfortunate reality is that when you retain an A-hole, it sends a terrible message about your values to your most valued employees. You’ll watch them drop like flies.  Among the employee your retain you’ll lose untold dollars in productivity as co-workers gather to talk about what an A-hole the A-hole is.

Of course the worst problem of all occurs when the A-hole develops a close relationship with the client.  Because then the agency has to decide whether they want to lose the valuable contributions of the A-hole and irritate or lose a client.

I recommend a proven 2-step process to handling such problem employees.  First, ask a handful of cross functional team members if they think the co-worker in question is an A-hole.  If the consensus is yes, put on your scrubs and perform the Assholectomy.

There simply is no room for the distraction, the division and the drama caused by A-holes. Accepting them tells the rest of the organization that it’s okay to be an A.  That can’t happen. Because eventually enough people will leave, or threaten to leave that you have no choice but to get rid of the jerk anyway.

After implementing the A-hole rule in the past, I’m proud to say we purged several very talented but very difficult people. And the culture, vibe, productivity  and love for the organization improved as a result. That’s why the ‘No Assholes’ rule will be printed on page one of The Perfect Agency Project handbook.