What Are Your Golden Rules At Work?

[3-Minute Read]There are no standard operating procedures for the human mind when it comes to driving quality and motivation at work, so embrace the diversity.

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What Are Your Golden Rules At Work?

There are no standard operating procedures for the human mind when it comes to driving quality and motivation at work so embrace the diversity.

Recently on LinkedIn I saw a post from Rob Bright, CEO of learning management software company Cloud Assess, that reflected on his ‘golden rules’ that are the cornerstones of his work ethic.

Rob offered up his three rules.

  1. Keep connected
  2. Make performance visible
  3. Continuously improve

A few people posted their golden rules in reply, including me, and I found a few interesting insights as I scanned through the comments.

TIP: You can replicate the same activity with your team. Ask at your next meeting “What are three mantras or golden rules you work by?” and get them to write their “top of mind” answers. Sharing the results will provide rich insight into the work motivations of your team.

1. One-size-fits-all is outdated

It was obvious to me that what drives quality of work and motivation for people varies widely and by trying to indoctrinate them into a one-size-must-fit-all model probably means the best parts of their performance will be left behind.

This has very much been the ‘traditional’ approach of business management thinking for decades. A single purpose vision and mission for the business is developed with a standard set of values. The aim in those activities is to ensure effectiveness and efficiency through the coordination of effort. The rationale for that approach is a hangover from the days when business strategy echoed tactics of the battlefield. However, there are no standard operating procedures for the human mind when it comes to driving quality and motivation in dynamic work environments.

Image: Traditional workplace strategies have tried to homogenise human motivation

2. The intrinsic excellence of people

Perhaps there is some sample bias here, but I’ve never seen anyone write their golden rule to be “Treat other people poorly” or “Take advantage of others” or “Get hooked into office politics”.

People are inherently constructive in their motivations; they want to thrive. We have a primal, pleasure-seeking drive to feel well and do well for our community. That helps ensure our survival and continuity.

The wheels fall off when the organisational or social culture tries to usurp personal rules with corporate rules.

3. My golden rules have morphed over time

Thinking about golden rules prompted me to reflect on how much my own rules of work motivation have changed over time.

In my 20s when I was out to prove myself as an over-achieving professional (it was the 90s it’s what we did back then 😊) I read widely and adopted the principles that I thought would serve me the best and impress my bosses the most.

During my 30s I established my first business, the demands on my work motivation changed and so did the rules that defined it. As a business strategy consultant, I got to see inside a lot of businesses and the minds on the owners and I asked deeper questions about the type of person I wanted to be. I started to know myself better and the external standards of my 20s gradually got replaced with things that felt right to me.

During my 40s another dramatic transition in my Golden Rules occurred. Through my experiences in ultramarathon running and other challenging adventures, I discovered a new level to my performance. To access my new “personal best” I had to let go of most things I had learned about pushing myself and create a new set of rules. (Note: I talk about this journey in my keynote “Dare To Be Your Boldest”)

My golden rules for work (right now)

1. Find the joy
Find the joy in every task. When my mind anticipates joy it releases a delightful mix of endorphins, dopamine, and melatonin. I get a hit of the happies which in turn stimulates the creative centres in my mind and I feel relaxed. In that state work stops feeling like work and starts feeling more like play. I’m sure you’ve experienced that state at some stage.

2. Do what matters
This rule puts tasks with impact at the top of my to-do list, boosting my productivity and effectiveness. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by too many options or there is a mountain of work in front of me, it also gives me permission to set aside the bulk of tasks and focus on those that have impact.

3. Celebrate progress
This rule is far more fun and energising then the approach I had in my 20s and 30s.

Old way: Set a goal and then constantly assess progress in relation to that goal. My mind was fixated on the gap between here and there.

New way: A vision for a future place I want to reach and then focus on where I am now and celebrate each step of progress toward the vision.

The thing with the old way is the gap rarely closed and if it did, I opened a new one by setting a new goal. It locked my mind in continuous, subconscious story that what I was doing was “never good enough”. That erodes self-esteem and leads to burn out.

The new way flips all of that on its head. An enticing vision gives forward momentum, small daily wins feed self-esteem.

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