No Rules Just Relationships

Grandfather Morrison -1916

Let me pose a question to you.

Think about the most conflicted situation that you are currently in, and ask what it would mean if you put those relationships ahead of the rules that you are required to follow.

What would happen if you lived by the principle ...

No Rules Just Relationships?

Over the past few weeks, this phrase became my mantra as our family dealt with the transition of my father from a healthy 85 year old to his death within a little over a week. As our family gathered at the hospital, the rules of the unit where he was seemed to make it harder for our family, as we all wanted to be with him. So, I would say, No Rules Just Relationships ... Go ... Go be with him.

The result was an easing of the tension that develops in those kinds of situations. Think about your situations at work or at home, and ask yourself, what if you put relationships ahead of your rules. What would happen?

Here's what I've learned by following this approach over the years.

1. Rules are boundaries.

They are good for social situations where people do not know one another, lack respect for other people's situations, and are basically looking out for their own interests. In this context, rules are important, and healthy for a good social or organizational environment.

Understand, I'm not against rules. I'm not an anarchist. I am for rules that facilitate relationships. I am not for rules that inhibit relationships from being what they should be.

2. Putting relationships first, means that all of them, not just the relationships that suit me.

My father was in an ICU room served by physicians and nurses, and other hospital staff. If we put relationships ahead of rules, we must consider our relationship to those staff persons who are not apart of our immediate family or group. Some staff will value the relationship of the family to the patient, and others will not. The challenge is to treat them with respect, but force the rules to serve the relationships.

We don't throw the rules out, just so we can do what we want. We put relationships first to make the system work better.

If you are going to put relationships first, it means that you are replacing a legalistic rules structure (Do this; don't do that.) inside of a social structure. If you are the family's leader, then you have to see the whole social environment, not just the part of it that serves your own interest. You have do what is right for the whole social structure, and for each the individual. If we do this, we will have a healthy, more vital environment.

Translate this to your workplace.

How many people are victimized by the structure of the organization (Structure is just a set of rules.)?

How many people find themselves burdened with a structure that makes it harder to do their job, than easier?

How's morale in your office?

Good morale is a function of organizational leadership establishing a structure which allows for employees to do their best at the work they are hired to do.  If you don't know what they think, ask them. If you don't how, ask me to help you. If you just ask, you are taking a step toward transitioning your organization from a structure-centric one to a people or relationship-centric one. This is the impact that will make it possible for your organization to make the transition from an industrial-era structure to a community of leaders one.

3. Rules don't define impact, but relationships can.

When we put relationships first, it puts a premium on our ability to communicate, collaborate and to coordinate our collective actions. The more we share a common set of values and goals, the more likely our relationships will produce the desired impact we want. In a rules-centric environment, especially one that seems arbitrary and unfair, people will shift their perspective from what's best for the whole to what's in it for me. When everyone takes that approach, you have conflict and crisis.

Someone has to look out for the whole social environment. That is what Impact leaders do. They see the big picture and figure out how to make it work for the benefit of the whole. Because the whole benefits, the whole contributes their best to making it work. When rules rule, then people get the message that the system is set up to benefit some and not others, and they begin to look for ways to work around the system or worse destroy it.

Putting relationships first means that values like respect, trust, integrity, mutuality, openness and personal responsibility are the keys to creating impact. Otherwise, you have a system which is narrow, constrained, and not set up to release the latent potential that exists.

In the end, my father was not strong enough to fight off the infection and illness that ravaged his body. Yet, as a family, we are stronger and more unified because we valued each other. Because the physicians, nurses and rest of the hospital staff were more focused on the relationships, the care my father received was of an exceptional nature. I am grateful to them, even in the midst of our loss.

The same unity can come to a team or organization if it chooses to elevate the place of their relationships, and not just following an arbitrary, incomplete set of rules prescribed by the structure. Creating impact requires us to align our relationships and the structure of our organizations with the difference that we identify as our purpose.

Is this hard to do? No more so than any other method for leading an organization. The hard part is being a better person, less insecure, less self-centered, less control oriented, less erratic, more authentic, caring, wise and collaborative.

When we put relationships ahead of rules, we create a more dynamic environment for growing our organizations. It won't happen without being intentional about it.

Think to yourself in the midst every situation you are in today, "No Rules Just Relationships."

You'll begin to see how to change as a result. It will become clear, and things that you totally missed before, that others were seeing, will now be evident, and new pathways for developing your business will open up.