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Businesses can fail for many reasons. Sometimes it happens quickly. Others are slow killers.

In this episode, we are going to discuss one killer that can slowly creep in on a business, destroy motivation, kill innovation, and make the business inept in much of what it does. As a leader, your actions determine whether this killer hurts your organization or not.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • What is this big killer of business and how it destroys businesses?
  • Trust issues, bad business culture, and good people leaving all go back to leadership – everything goes back to leadership.
  • A passive-aggressive way of dealing with people’s issues.
  • Rules are for people and not people for the rules.

Resources Mentioned

Full Episode Transcript

(00:01)

What is this big killer of business and how it destroys businesses?

In this episode, we’re going to talk about one of the big killers of business. Now, what is this big killer of business? It’s bureaucracy. Its rules. Too often bureaucracy and rules destroy businesses, hurt productivity, and so on. Now, rules can be good. Systems can be good if they’re made for the right purpose.

Rules and systems can help people be more productive by streamlining things. Having a set order of the way things are done so that things can be done better, faster, and quicker. And to help with innovation and creativity.

Productivity rules can be created that help benefit that. But too often they do the opposite. They hinder it instead of helping, they keep people from doing their jobs well because of all the approvals and all the paperwork. It lowers the morale of people. It kills their just motivation and their productivity. And it causes good people to leave.

Ultimately for a business that kills their revenue, it kills them being able to stay on top of things and innovate because there are all these processes they have to go through because of the rules they’ve created.

Sometimes rules become a gotcha instead of, let me help you. It’s about finding out what people are doing wrong instead of setting good expectations and helping people do what’s right. It’s often about controlling people instead of enabling and empowering people.

(01:26)

Everything goes back to leadership

Now, some leaders will say, “Hey, I have to have these rules because I can’t trust my people. If I don’t have these rules, they won’t do their jobs and won’t do them right.” Well, I hate to tell that person that you’re wrong because everything goes back to leadership. Everything.

If there’s a problem with trust with people who can’t do their jobs well, that’s ultimately on you as the leader. Is it that you didn’t train them well? Is it that you didn’t set good expectations? Did you not hire well? Do you have a bad firing policy? I mean, ultimately it’s on you and the culture you created.

What kind of culture are you creating in your business? Have you created a culture that makes good people leave, that leaves you with the people whom you feel like you do have to micromanage? Ultimately, it goes back to leadership.

So if you have an environment where you feel like you have to control people, that’s on you. Rules should be there to help people, to help them be creative, to help them be productive, and not to hurt and control them. Because ultimately when you do that, you’re hurting and you’re destroying your business.

"Rules should be there to help people, to help them be creative, to help them be productive, and not to hurt and control them." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet

So why are rules created? Well, sometimes they’re created with good intentions. They’re trying to be helpful. They’re creating a system because they think that’s the way it’s going to work. Maybe it’s to save money or they think this is just a good idea, so let’s make this happen. But often it’s done without people in mind having a people perspective or they’re disengaged. And there’s a disconnect from the front lines.

So for example, some leaders may be in a higher position, and they say, oh, this is a great idea. We should do this. Let’s implement this. They do it and they’re disconnected from the front lines and the people it will affect. So it ends up being a burden instead of helpful and that happens a lot.

Sometimes they create these systems to try to save money. And again, sometimes that’s without kind of a people mindset and without the trust that should be there. And so they create these rules about money and sometimes they end up being counterproductive.

For example, I’ve heard of companies that had certain policies for hotels, but the people who went to a conference, for example, couldn’t find a hotel that fit that parameter near the conference. So they ended up having to drive a long, long way away and costing a lot more money to find the hotel than if they were just given good expectations and guidelines and given the power to make a good decision.

(03:57)

A passive-aggressive way of dealing with people’s issues

Another reason rules are created is because it’s a passive-aggressive way of dealing with people’s issues. People sometimes do make mistakes, sometimes there are people who do bad things. The way to handle it is not to create a new procedure or rule that affects everybody.

Too often somebody does something and people create a rule to deal with that person instead of just dealing with that person. And so it ends up affecting everybody negatively instead of just if they dealt with that person and done what they need to do with that person. And over time, rule after rule after rule is created and it becomes this giant burden on everybody.

I know I’ve seen it personally when I’ve worked in government-related institutions in the school system, in a local college, people would do something they didn’t like or that was wrong instead of dealing with that person or on top of dealing with that person.

Sometimes, they would just create a new rule that affects everybody and ends up hurting everybody. So rules should be there to help people. It should help them in their productivity. It should help them in their creativity and innovation. If they do that, if they hinder productivity instead of helping you likely have a bad rule, the best thing to do is to create a culture of trust.

Set good expectations and guidelines and trust people in those. Will some people take advantage of that? Yes, maybe people buy a lot more sticky notes than they should. But what matters is the culture you build.

Because in the long run that will save you the most money, give you the most productivity, and loyalty, and the best employees you have working for you. And if someone does break those expectations, instead of creating a rule, talk to that person.

(05:49)

Rules are for people and not people for the rules.

Another aspect of rules I think we need to talk about is the fact that rules are for people and not people for the rules. There is a difference there and it’s a mindset that’s important because sometimes we can get it wrong.

Rules are there for people, not people for rules. Rules are there to help people that help keep people safe, productive, and so on. People are not for the rules, they are not meant to be there so we can control people and find what they’re doing wrong. It’s not about a gotcha.

"Rules are there for people, not people for rules." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet

Rules should be questioned. We should look at things. Sometimes some rules are stupid or maybe they were created at some point for a good reason, but now they’re not effective. So it’s good to go through the rules and see what’s good and what’s not good. What processes are helpful and which ones are not helpful, and then do something about it.

A book I read recently was from Captain D. Michael Abrashoff called It’s Your Ship. And in it, he talks about how he turned one of the worst-performing ships, at least in the squadron. I think it was kind of in the broader sense. It was a very poor-performing ship and he took it to like the best-performing ship, the most trusted ship. He talked about how he did that.

One of the things he talked about was the rules that he questioned. Because sometimes rules were there, but they were created years and years ago and they were ineffective. So that’s something to think about and that’s a good book to read if you want a good book to check out.

So in summary, bureaucratic rules can be a killer of businesses. Rules should be there to help your people perform better. It should enable productivity, enable creativity, and not hinder it. You should have a culture of trust where you don’t feel like you have to control people with rules because all those bureaucracies do is kills productivity. It lowers morale, causes good people to leave, and hurts you in the long run and short run.

So let’s work on building those great cultures. Let’s examine the rules. We have to see how effective and if they’re really needed, and let’s just be great leaders.

"Bureaucratic rules can be a killer of businesses. Rules should be there to help your people perform better. It should enable productivity, enable creativity, and not hinder it." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of No More Bad Leaders. If this episode meant something to you, I would be honored if you share it with someone who would benefit from it. You can find more episodes here.

If you have any comments, questions, or inquiries, feel free to contact me.

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