Every leader or manager faces one particular type of tension on most days – the tension between relationships and processes. The balance is hard to strike – lean one way and you become too nice or lean the other and you become unnecessarily dogmatic.
The keys, in my limited experience, are as follows –
1. Understand what your natural leanings are. Depending on how you like to operate and what drives you, you will have a natural leaning to either being too nice or too strict with rules. Understanding this is critical to figuring out what you need to work on.
2. Communicate your expectations and follow through on consequences. Next, communicate your expectations frequently and clearly. Everyone working with you should have a clear understanding of the norms associated with working with you and what happens when they aren’t followed.
3. Treat different people differently. Finally, keep an eye out for spectacular performance. Every once in a while, you are confronted with spectacular performers who feel that the norms and processes get in the way. The more creative the endeavor, the higher the chances you will meet with rule breakers. Again, there isn’t so much of a right answer as much as there are two questions – how much of the rule bending can you make peace with? and, most importantly, at what point does the rule breaking affect the culture of the team?
As with all good tensions, what matters isn’t the answer. What matters is repeatedly asking the question, looking inward, communicating clearly and doing the best to balance the various forces at play.
It isn’t easy. Mistakes are guaranteed.
But, that’s how we get made.