When I was about about 10 or 11 years old, we had a group of friends in our neighborhood that would go fishing on Horn Pond during the summers. Our favorite spot to fish was on “The Rock.” This large rock stuck out into the middle of the pond and we would have about 5 of us all sitting on it together. It was crowded, we were elbow to elbow, but that is where we enjoyed fishing together as a group.
The “Golden Rule” on the rock was that only side-castings were allowed, never an overhead-cast. We all agreed to it, and we all followed that rule because it kept everyone safe from a flying hook. If a new friend joined us, someone would always tell him the rule before they put a foot on the rock.
One particular day, Neil, our friend David’s older brother, decided to join us.The two brothers were sitting on opposite sides of the rock, and Neil decided to cast his line out into the open water. The golden rule was broken; Neil did an overhead cast! When he did this he thought his line was caught in the trees above us and he was yanking the rod violently trying to get it out. All of a sudden we heard this wail that was a blend of yelling and crying at the same time. We were startled when we heard, “Please stop yanking your line!” We all turned around and were alarmed to see that Neil had hooked his younger brother in the back of his head.
We all were upset with Neil and we talked about this incident for weeks. Our group made a rule, and Neil broke it. He knew the rule, but he felt he was above us.
The Golden rule, “No overhead casting on the rock,” was never something we put in writing, but we talked about it all the time because we knew something like this could happen. It was common sense to all my friends, but Neil did not respect the golden rule, and we were just “little kids” to him. We didn’t care if other people fished on the rock and did what they wanted, but our group was committed to that rule.
Neil was excommunicated from fishing with us on the Rock again. It wasn’t our rock, we didn’t own it, he could fish on it anytime he wanted, but as a group we stayed away from his reckless casting.
We all have written and unwritten rules on our teams, in our circle of friends or at work. Sometimes these teams or groups have their own golden rules because they know what makes their team better, more effective, productive, and supportive. They follow their own golden rules as a team without even talking about them, it is an unspoken understanding of the group. These rules may emerge naturally, by modeling, or a team member might suggest it, but these rules just make the team click. What works for one team may not work for another, but the power of a team to manage themselves is very powerful.
We all have the freedom to make our own “golden rules,” and we all have the opportunity to be leaders.
What makes your team click?