For the most part, I am blessed with excellent team members, associates, and partners. Their creativity, innovation, resourcefulness, and imagination are wonderful to witness.

On rare occasion I have been burned. Someone colored way outside the lines, someone broke a serious rule, someone betrayed trust.

I am an accountant and attorney by training. I know how to set up and enforce policies and procedures, audits and constraints. I know how to write rules, restrict flexibility and freedom, impose command and control.

Yet generally I don’t. I usually resist the urge to make a new rule. I believe that while there may be an intended benefit for every new rule, and that benefit may at times be easily seen in the here and now, at some point there also is a real cost in organizational rigidity, often a largely unseen cost in lost initiative, in individual creativity, in speed of response, in opportunities never known.

Yes, there are some rules that must be followed. Issues of integrity are core. Some things are mission critical or involve real life and health issues. Yet in most organizations, mundane rules and and mind-numbing regulations grow like weeds and remain long after the original purpose has been served. The result is lockstep conformity and an unfortunate loss of the benefits of human initiative and imagination. And the workplace becomes a dull and soul-deadening place..

The personal equivalent is to “harden your heart” after you’ve been hurt, vowing never to be hurt again. While one should always learn and increase one’s awareness and ability to discern true character, it is too easy to implement a blanket response or learn the wrong lesson.

Most people are good and trustworthy and will re-pay your trust many fold. Do not block the many because of the few.

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted June 27, 2008.