Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 11

Freedom Comes
from Rules
A. Bruce Clarke, JD

"Freedom is greatest when
the rules for behavior
are clear and enforced."
Plato

P

eople will tell you that workplace rules reduce
freedom, chill creativity and punish the best
employees. Maybe so if you mean micro-managing
attendance or punitive disciplinary rules. I believe
Plato had something bigger in mind.
The most important workplace rule is its culture. What is it
like to work here, what is expected, how do problems get
resolved, what gets rewarded, where are the boundaries? My
favorite definition of culture is "what people do when no one is
looking."
When no one is looking, do employees finish a project and
start the next task? Do they make decisions to serve an
agitated customer in an unusual way? When they hit a new
hurdle, do they find a way around? Do they take their ideas to
managers for consideration? Do they take reasonable risks?
Or, when no one is looking, do employees avoid work and
produce the minimum? Do they make short-sighted decisions
that favor revenue but hurt customers? Do they cover up
mistakes and failures to deliver? Do they check the box and
stop short of the extra steps that make a great company and
great employees?
A productive culture is a powerful combination of speed limits
and green lights. When employees and managers alike know
the outer limits of behavior and operate effectively in the
green zone, their freedom and productivity are greatest.
The speed limits might include standards around business
ethics, treatment of each other, service expectations and
such. Establishing the green lights is harder: how do you give
employees guidance to make the right decisions where the
answer is not defined by a specific rule?
This is where Plato comes in. If a business does a poor job
in the green zone because it sends mixed signals, most
employees will freeze. They will look to the speed limits for

clues then fail to act due to fear of "making a mistake." To
maximize employee freedom and productive activity, green
zone guidance must be clearer.
Green zone guidance comes from a variety of actions and
words. Start with a solid mission-vision-values process. Who is
leading and managing the company (and how they behave in
the green zone) is even more powerful. The words and phrases
chosen by senior managers, repeatedly communicated,
also move the needle. How an organization handles a crisis
or challenge matters. Whether an employer rewards or
punishes risk taking and honest mistakes is important. Openly
discussing green zone examples and risk taking can help
employees understand what you mean.
Employees can look for green zone clues in their managers'
behavior. Talk to your manager about the company culture
when the next unusual problem or opportunity arises. Start
a conversation about bringing more clarity to this most
important aspect of business and success. Freedom to take the
right actions in a well-communicated green zone will separate
your business results from the pack. Plato would be proud. z

A. Bruce Clarke, JD, is President and
CEO of Capital Associated Industries
(CAI). CAI is a non-profit employers'
association with offices in Raleigh
and Greensboro. CAI helps MAXIMIZE
employee engagement and MINIMIZE
employer liability through human
resources and management advice,
training, news, survey data, public policy
advocacy and consulting services. You
can reach Bruce at (919) 713-5243 or
bruce.clarke@capital.org.

march/april 2017

||

success

11



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Success By Association - March/April 2017

President’s Message
Event Calendar
Change, One Person at a Time
What I Learned as an Employment Attorney: Non-Legal Advice to Get You Out of Legal Hot Water
Is Your Hiring Filter in the Way?
Freedom Comes From Rules
Cost/Benefit of an Organization Retreat
Polish Up Your Confict-of-Interest Policy
Legislative Reception a Success!
Getting the Leadership Basics Right
Member Updates
Should They Stay or Should They Go? (With Apologies to the Clash)
Young Leader Profile
Advertiser Index
Buyers’ Guide
Advertiser Showcase
Executive Director’s Message
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover1
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover2
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 3
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - President’s Message
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Event Calendar
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 6
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Change, One Person at a Time
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - What I Learned as an Employment Attorney: Non-Legal Advice to Get You Out of Legal Hot Water
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 9
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Is Your Hiring Filter in the Way?
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Freedom Comes From Rules
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Cost/Benefit of an Organization Retreat
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 13
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Polish Up Your Confict-of-Interest Policy
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 15
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Legislative Reception a Success!
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 17
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 18
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 19
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Getting the Leadership Basics Right
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 21
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Member Updates
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 23
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Should They Stay or Should They Go? (With Apologies to the Clash)
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - 25
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Young Leader Profile
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Advertiser Index
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Buyers’ Guide
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Advertiser Showcase
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - Executive Director’s Message
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover3
Success By Association - March/April 2017 - cover4
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