05/21/2014 03:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Three Rules of Life We Need to Break in Business


Do you remember the lessons you learned in kindergarten? The ones about living life a certain way and treating people right? There are many rules we learn growing up that are helpful in leadership and life -- things like "Wash your hands before you eat" or "Share your toys" or "Play fair." Then there are some rules of life that we need to question, especially if we want to succeed in business and leadership. These are three that stand out for me.

Rule # 1:

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

On a daily basis, I am reminded of how wrong this "golden rule" is. I'm guessing that you are, too. Have you ever asked yourself "What was he thinking?" or "Why did she react that way?" or "Where did that come from?" Have you ever assumed someone would think, say, or do something and been surprised at their actual actions?

All of this is reflective of the fact that people are different. They want different things. They communicate differently. They prefer to be communicated with differently.

In fact, if you want to get the best out of people, you need to rewrite the golden rule to be:

Treat others the way they want to be treated.

Behavioural profiles like DISC or MBTI can help with gaining a better understanding of what motivates others, what sort of communication they appreciate, and what their focus and fears are.

Rule # 2:

If it isn't broken, don't fix it

In today's business world, change is rapid, agility is critical, and questioning everything is necessary to build the agility and innovation your organization needs.

I recommend that at least once per year, you hold a "hacking" session within your organization (or if you're really open, invite customers). Ask people what processes or practices need to be broken and re-invented. You'll be surprised at the efficiency you could gain and even the innovation that could happen by involving people at all levels in "breaking" what's currently "working".

If you don't break things intentionally, your organization stands the risk of stagnancy and eventually irrelevance.

Rule # 3:

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

I am not saying we need to treat people badly or without respect, but I worry that sometimes in an effort to be polite, we don't question things that we should. We shy away from conflict or challenging decisions, especially when they are made by our specified "leaders."

Conflict is healthy. We need to question decisions or processes that we are unsure of. We need to ask why things are done a certain way, and why they can't be changed. Sometimes this may mean saying things that cause controversy and are not considered "nice" by those who fear conflict. It feels uncomfortable at first, but discomfort can lead to innovation and success.

If we don't start breaking these rules, we run the risk of not connecting fully with people. We run the risk of complacency. Our organizations run the risk of not existing a few years from now.

What other rules do we need to break to compete today?