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A View: An Important Rule

Fred Gluck was McKinsey’s managing director for eight years, vice chairman of Bechtel, lead director of HCA during its privatization and along with Michael Porter and two others, one of the four protagonists in The Lords of Strategy for his seminal work on that subject at McKinsey. Some would
argue though that equal to any one of these accomplishments in lasting impact was his introduction of Rule Six to a generation of CEO’s. This generation of CEO’s came to office after the go-go 1990’s when CEO’s were treated as rock stars and too often had personalities to match. The new generation
wanted a new core idea. Rule Six resonated.

Have not heard of Rule Six? Its provenance is debated, but the rule is “Don’t take yourself too seriously!”. Rule Five is “Refer to Rule Six”, and there is no rule one through four. Being human, we are all Rule Six misdemeanor offenders from time to time, but the thing to avoid is becoming a Rule Six felon or, even worse, an unrepentant Rule Six felon. Rule Six violators are everywhere. They can be people, groups, and even institutions. How can you tell a Rule Six violator? Some of the more common behaviors include: little to no sense of humor, when they talk they are forever lecturing, they cannot laugh at themselves, they do not listen, they do not invite feedback, they manifest little or no joy or delight in life’s gifts big or small, their enthusiasm is tempered as being frivolous and in short they too often are stiff, humorless, arrogant, and no fun.

Their behaviors come across to others as: “I am important”, “I am smarter than you”, “I have no time for fun”, “I am confident to the point of certainty”, “I am too busy for anything less than my very important work”, “I only can be with people my equal in stature or better”, “I am qualified to judge you
and everything else”, and the list goes on.

There are many possible causes for Rule Six violating behavior and they can be interrelated. Confidence, for example, is a good thing and often necessary, but when it crowds out the ability to listen, becomes overbearing, or lends an air of self-importance or arrogance, we are in Rule Six violation
territory. Our work is hopefully important to us and those we serve, but if our passion becomes such an overwhelming driving force it can crowd out the joy of work, accomplishment and being part of a group or effort larger than ourselves we all lose. Finally, we all need good counselors and coaches who can caringly and effectively help us hold the mirror up to see ourselves as others really see us. Moreover, we must really desire to understand that reflection and be committed to grow and improve as a life long journey. From time to time work and life puts us in the company of Rule Six felons, but life is a lot more rewarding, productive, and fun if we can minimize our exposure to these behaviors and attitudes and manage our own tendencies well.

November 18, 2013
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