It’s a simple question but it’s one that we all need to be asking ourselves if we are to be effective leaders in our work and in our lives.

We all operate with a certain set of “rules” that guide our thinking, decisions, and actions. We have rules for our kids, ourselves, our family members, as well as rules for our teams and our staff. It’s important to regularly assess if these rules support our current needs and goals or, in fact, they get in our way.

For example: we worked with a client named Max who was certain that his team could be more efficient and effective, but he wasn’t having much success helping them get there. He was a hands-on kind of guy, so he created rules and guidelines to help the team get things done. Max was a caring leader and genuinely wanted them to succeed.

We asked Max to describe his expectations and how each member of the team interacted to create success. He pulled out charts and diagrams of workflow that were quite impressive. Listening to some of the rules that Max had in place we had a sense of what was happening but to be certain we spoke with his key staff members to get a clearer picture of how things were unfolding.

The plan that looked good on paper was, in reality, constrictive to actual workflow and created multiple obstacles to the team’s success.

Max had rules in place that were great when the company was small and most of his team new: all team members had to weigh in on a deliverable before they could go forward, and all final products needed to be reviewed by him before they could be released to a client. But now with a more seasoned and quite large team, they were creating a bottleneck. In essence, his rules slowed things down when he needed to be coaching his staff how to effectively use their teammates, and when to get him involved.

Spend some time this week thinking about the rules in your life and work and make a conscious decision about the rules that continue to support you in your life and those that now get in the way. It can be hard to give up rules that we have relied on but the effort is worth it to charting your bold, creative future!