In principle, Where rules don’t work, relationships take over. Where relationships don’t work, rules take over. Without rules or relationships, there is no civil discourse, no way to make good group decisions.
Some people put a lot of stock in relationships, trust that people will do the right thing. Two business partners take a risk together, perhaps even outside the rules or off the map, but they do it because of faith in their relationship.
Some people put a lot of stock in rules (defined broadly to include roles, cultural norms, etc.) and trust that if everyone knows and plays their roles, everything will work well. Two co-workers dislike each other but have established rules, roles, and boundaries that allow them to work effectively.
Communities are tangled webs of rules and relationships.
Practical Tip: Know the rules. Build relationships. Do both.
Where there is a problem I do well to consider, in this order, that the fix might be relationship building or it might be rule following or perhaps rule making.
And the questions are about my behavior, not yours. “Am I investing in the relationship? Am I following the rules? Do I need to propose a new rule?”
4 thoughts on “Rules and relationships”
Very interesting idea!
Well, finally someone put into words an answer to the question I’ve been asking myself for over a decade! Germans work by the rules and I like working through relationships because it seems warmer and more interesting to me. However, I’m working in Germany with Germans and have to play (and work) by the rules – something I’ve known all along – but having the two types broken down as clearly as this was a revelation for me. Thank you, Craig!
Thanks Craig. First time I’ve heard this…. Excellent tip!!
This is an exceptionally succinct and juicy tip, Craig. Thanks so much!