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Jack Mitchell: Forget Rules, Set Great Expectations Instead

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Setting key expectations for your employees instead of creating rules and regulations will prompt them to want to perform better.

 I’m told that many companies maintain thick employee handbooks jam-packed with all types of rules. Every year or so, they make revisions to the handbook, usually sticking in still more rules but rarely discarding or updating any of them to reflect a changing world. So you have a business drowning in rules that no one can remember, including the managers who dreamed them up. 
 
You know the old saying, “Rules are made to be broken.” Well, we find that people look on rules as meaning that you’re testing their integrity. Which translates into, “I don’t trust you.” So one of the most important ways that we show that we trust our people is by not having rules except those required by law. 
 
Now, when we say that we don’t have any other rules, we don’t mean that we operate in complete anarchy. No business could be successful if it were run that way. People don’t come and go as they please, they don’t have limitless expense accounts, they don’t come to work in bikinis. 
 
You see, we’re a hugging culture based on values and principles, not rules and regulations. 
 
Rather than rules, we have expectations. And if you have a company comprised of trustworthy people, setting examples and expectations works a lot better than rules.  
 
To our mind, rules are unbending.  
 
Expectations, on the other hand, are flexible and liberating when they need to be. The clear understanding is that you are expected to live up to our expectations, and so you come in and leave when you are scheduled to, but you don’t need a time clock to keep you honest. Expectations are mutually agreed upon — and they can be fulfilled in different ways by different people. No two individuals are completely alike in terms of talent, strengths, motivation, or personality, so why should everyone have to follow rigid rules?  
 
There are seven key expectations that are important to me:  
 
1. Be positive, passionate, and personal.  
2. Work and play hard — and work smarter too. 
3. Understand the power of the team. That means exhibiting mutual respect and trust.  
4. Dress appropriately.  
5. No surprises. 
6. Always, always be open and tell the truth! 
7. Hug one another and hug the customers!  
 
We also like to use the word “standards” a lot in place of “rules.” We set very high standards, and we expect everyone to do his or her best to live up to them.  
 
That’s why effort, hard work, and education are emphasized. We like people to keep raising the bar. We realize that if the bar is raised appropriately with each individual in mind, then everyone will reach his or her personal and professional goals and will enjoy — indeed love — the journey, the process, the playing of the game of the career of life.  
 
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