Rules, expectations, and guidelines tell us the limits of our behavior. They help us know what is and is not acceptable in the eyes of the people close to us and within larger groups of people.
And, as the title of this post says, rules without relationship breeds rebellion.
I cannot take credit for this statement. I heard it from a Bud to Boss workshop participant in Indianapolis this past June. And still, I like the clarity and simplicity of what the statement says.
Some people will read this post and respond that relationship and rules have nothing to do with each other. That people should just follow the rules regardless of the relationship they have with the person enforcing them.
I would reply: take a look at the title of this blog and remember that I am a recovering engineer. I am hard-wired to view rules as the things you live by regardless of the circumstances. Actually, I love rules. They give me comfort and security.
And, my observations and experience tell me that rules without relationship create more problems than they solve.
In the context of this blog, I am not addressing the rules, regulations, and laws of our larger society. I’m pointing towards closer personal and professional relationships. I’m thinking in terms of families, business, churches, and civic organizations. I’m talking about situations where you know, live, and work closely with the other person.
For example, in my role as a parent, I have certain rules and expectations of my two daughters. I expect them to follow those rules for the good of the family. And, if I lean only on the rules and ignore building a relationship with them, I will get rebellion rather than willing compliance.
Just as some people who lean heavily on the rules might read the title and challenge it, other people could agree to the point that they say rules don’t really matter at all. They might say that only relationship matters as a leader. Well, I wouldn’t go that far either.
Like so many other issues that surface in the discussion of how to lead a team (business, sports, family, church, etc), the rule-relationship issue is a both-and scenario rather than an either-or scenario. By that I mean that you need both rules and relationship to make it work. (For more on the either-or extremes, check this post on the task-people perspective difference.)
Rules set the context and the expectations of behavior. Relationship paves the way for communication about those expectations.
You can and should set and enforce rules. And, you should develop a relationship before you attempt to enforce them.