Your phantom rules

We go through life with phantom rules… underlying guidelines that steer our decision making, form our opinions.

Often, we make up these rules to survive and thrive. Some we adopt from others’ words, tone of voice, attitudes and actions. They are silent thoughts, rarely spoken.

Do they serve us well? Are they good for us? Maybe. Maybe not.

Phantom rules can be empowering or work against us.
You can (or can’t) do this.
Better not do that.
To be successful in this leader’s eyes, I must…
To be successful with this team, I must…
This is what “they” (manager, peer, family member, leader, headquarters) expect, prefer, appreciate, value…
That’s the way we do it here.

It’s a good idea to ferret out your phantom rules and question their validity. Ask yourself, “Is it really true? Says who? Is this rule working for me or shackling me?”

Teams have phantom rules, too. Unspoken expectations that are believed and acted upon, either strengthening or inhibiting communication, creativity, camaraderie.

Try this with your team: Ask what unspoken, phantom rules guide the team’s decisions, actions, creativity. What phantom rules keep them from stretching? Have everyone write at least one they think affects the team as a whole or their actions on the team. Have them share with the group and discuss. Or, have someone create a list and send to everyone to think about and discuss at the next meeting. (Time to think before discussing will generate deeper insights from more participants.) Ask, too, what is a better rule to move the team forward.

Assess the phantom rules you live by – bring them into the light and look at them through different lenses. Decide if they are keepers. If they serve you well, great. If not, replace them with new rules that lift you up and lead you to be more of your best self. Every rule counts.

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