Unwritten Rules?

“What are the unwritten rules that guide your work?” 

I came across this question recently, and it struck a chord.   Are the people in my life – my family, colleagues, clients, friends, etc. – aware of the various rules that influence how stuff gets done in my life? Would it make parts of my day more successful or less stressful if they were?

Think about the various parts of your day – work, commuting, family time, workout time, down time, etc.  Are there unwritten rules (you might call them norms, expectations, assumptions) that guide how you work, engage with others or simply get stuff done?  Is everyone involved in the activities aware of your unwritten rules?

Every organization I’ve worked in has had rules – written and unwritten – that guide how work gets done, who is involved, priorities and what gets taken on.  Being aware of all the rules could truly have made many of the experiences more engaging, productive, and successful.

So, how do we do this at work?

I often ask groups “what assumptions are guiding your thinking about X?”  This discussion raises the beliefs people have about work, what is going on and what they think they are trying to accomplish.

But, taking it one step further and asking people to share the unwritten rules that they believe influence their work or the organization could help teams to discover a whole new level of understanding and appreciation for their team.  This kind of dialogue can inspire teams to set aside old habits, “we’ve always done it that way” thinking, or preconceived notions about teammates, and foster engagement, excitement and discovery that incites new levels of thinking and performance.

Have you ever asked your team about the unwritten rules that influence their work or the group’s work?  Try it.  You might be surprised by what people are thinking and how the differences impact your opportunity for success.

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