Play according to the rules

signboard with inscription no alcohol beyond this point

Whatever you do and wherever you are, you need to know the rules. Not just the rules others set for you, but also the rules you set for others.

If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes and the quitting time

Chinese Proverb

Use the rules to your advantage

One of the best usages of rules to somebody’s advantage was one of the first project managers I was reporting to. Whenever there was a request to add or change something in the project, he always had the same answer:

Of course, we can do this. Though tell me, are we getting more money?
Or are you okay that we will delay the project by a couple of days?
Though, of course, we can also not do some other things?
Just let me know what you want to do.

The sheer enjoyment on his face was radiant, and to be honest, it was spreading to everybody in this project. Sometimes a little bit less for the person who requested the change.

What he did so brilliantly was using the rules that everybody agreed upon before to his advantage to ensure the project was in a stable state. Because everybody decided upon the rules, there might have been a bit of friction, but still, everybody knows that this is what they signed up for.

Be clear on the rules

Rules only exist in-game (and at work) when the players agree on them. If there is no agreement, there are no rules, and when there are no rules, do you want to participate? Make the implicit explicit and define the rules together, and share this with all participants for agreement. The rules are there to protect them and protect the overall game’s (or work’s) integrity and, of course, protect you.

Furthermore, have you noticed that it is a lot easier to push back when you can say: Sorry, there is a rule for that. Instead of: No, I cannot do this.

Rules can make decisions easier, do not shy away from them. Make the implicit explicit to make your life easier.


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