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Archive for February, 2011


If you think the rules do not apply to you . . .

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

. . . then they probably do.  That is a coaching phrase that I have used for years in conjunction with a good old standard teamwork game:  Broken Squares.  It’s an activity that requires teams to work together to achieve results and generally brings out both the best and worst behaviors on a team.  Some of the best behaviors are collaboration, innovation, creative thinking, sharing, supporting, and celebrating.  Some of the worst include competitiveness, control, self-absorption, hoarding, judging, and quitting.  It’s a fascinating insight to what makes people tick.

There are lots of rules for the game, and it doesn’t take long before someone breaks one or more of them.  As the teams work in silence (one of the rules), I observe them gesturing and making faces to try to communicate to another team member (against the rules).  And, I say: “If you think the rules do not apply to you, they probably do.”   I never just say it once, because in spite of making the rules really clear, someone always seems to think it’s okay to break them.  Generally, when I facilitate the game, I say the phrase a lot.  I think it is one of the most profound coaching phrases I ever use, with others and with myself.  I don’t just use it when I facilitate Broken Squares.  I use it when talking about accountability because we often look at everyone else to see if they’re being accountable and tend not to look at what we’re doing.  We think accountability isn’t an issue for us and that the rules about accountability don’t apply.  I also use it when talking about collaboration.  We often think of ourselves as the easiest people to work with.  We’re open, we’re honest, we share.  Certainly the collaboration rules don’t apply.

I notice that when I am positively convinced that the rules do not apply to me, it’s likely that I’m working really hard to rationalize, deflect, and avoid taking responsibility for my own actions.  Unfortunately, I mostly notice this after the fact . . . when I’ve already been stubborn and a bit full of myself.  I’m doing my best to shift the trend.  I think if we all looked at how well we are living by the rules instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing, things might go a lot more smoothly in our work and personal lives.

Just a thought:  “If you think the rules do not apply to you, they probably do.”

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