Thank you for your comments on last week’s post, 3 – 5 Rules. A lot of executives out there resonated with the idea of providing 3 – 5 key expectations or “rules” that can guide their team as they make choices in their leadership and their work. And, many of you asked how to identify the “right” rules for your teams.

As we said in last week’s post, the key to developing powerful rules “is to keep them broad enough to allow for independent thinking but bounded enough to provide the structure within which the people using them can achieve success.” The goal is to identify those things that are critical to success that can be kept “front and center” as your teams are doing their work. If you create expectations that are time bound and specific, you will need to revisit the rules over and over again. But, by answering the following 3 questions, you can develop the 3 – 5 rules that are timeless and emphasize higher-level behaviors. After each question we’ve given you a few examples of the kinds of answers our coaching clients have shared with us over the years:

  1. What really matters to you as a leader?
  • All actions must support our core business.
  • Walk your talk: if you say it, do it.
  • Pause and ask yourself, will this put us in jeopardy?
  • Be prepared to share with me in detail how you thought this through.


  1. What does success look like to your clients / customers for your organization?
  • Innovate! Our next “failure” could lead to our greatest product yet; we are here to change how our customers experience… (design, health care, electronics, dry cleaning, yard care, etc.)
  • Customers experience us as critical to their success.
  • Everything that clients see has a design aesthetic to it.
  • Our customers buy our best ideas—not our safe ideas.


  1. How do you define success in your teams?
  • Consider our strategic vision as you make decisions; be prepared to demonstrate that your decisions are in alignment with that vision.
  • Don’t come to me with problems; come with solutions.
  • Take risks – claim your successes and own your failures.
  • Your team cannot succeed without you; you cannot succeed without your team.
  • Make progress every day.


What you see in these statements is that they will support an organization over time, they don’t need to be rewritten with each reorg or new initiative, and they guide leaders and staff to work in ways that matter to you as their leader and to the organization as a whole.