I first started formulating The Rules of Work many, many years ago when I was an assistant manager. There was a promotion going for the next step up—manager. There were two possible candidates, myself and Rob. On paper I had more experience, more expertise, most of the staff wanted me as their manager, and I generally knew the new job better. Rob, to be honest, was useless.
I was chatting with an outside consultant the company used and asked him what he thought my chances were. “Slim,” he replied. I was indignant. I explained all about my experience, my expertise, my superior abilities. “Yep,” he replied, “but you don’t walk like a manager.” “And Rob does?” “Yep, that’s about the strength of it.” Needless to say he was quite right, and Rob got the job. I had to work under a moron. But a moron who walked right. I studied that walk very carefully.
The consultant was spot on—there was a manager’s walk. I began to notice that every employee, every job, everyone in fact, had their walk. Receptionists walked in a particular way, as did the cashiers, the catering staff, the office workers, the admin, the security staff—and the managers, of course. Secretly, I began to practice the walk.
Looking the Part
As I spent a lot of time watching the walk, I realized that there was also a manager’s style of attire, of speaking, of behavior. It wasn’t enough that I was good at my job and had the experience. I had to look as if I was better than anyone else. It wasn’t just a walk—it was an entire makeover. And gradually, as I watched, I noticed that what newspaper was read was important, as was what pen was used, how you wrote, how you talked to colleagues, what you said at meetings—everything, in fact, was being judged, evaluated, acted upon. It wasn’t enough to be able to do the job. If you wanted to get on, you had to be seen to be the Right Type. The Rules of Work is about creating that type—of course, you’ve got to be able to do the job in the first place. But a lot of people can do that. What makes you stand out? What makes you a suitable candidate for promotion? What makes the difference?
Act One Step Ahead
I noticed that among the managers there were some who had mastered the walk, but there were others who were practicing, unconsciously, for the next walk—the general manager’s walk.
I happened at that time to be travelling around a lot between different branches and noticed that among the general managers there were some who were going to stay right where they were for a long time. But there were others already practicing for their next step ahead—the regional director’s walk. And style and image.
I switched from practicing the manager’s walk and leapt ahead to the general manager’s walk. Three months later I was promoted from assistant manager to general manager in one swift move. I was now the moron’s manager.
Walk Your Talk
Rob had the walk (Rule 18: Develop a Style That Gets You Noticed), but unfortunately he didn’t adhere sufficiently to the number one rule—he didn’t know the job well enough. He looked right, sounded right, but the bottom line was—he couldn’t do the job as well as he should have done. I was brought in over his head because they couldn’t sack him— having just promoted him it would have looked bad—and they needed someone to oversee his work so that his errors could be rectified quickly. Rob had reached the level of his own incompetence and stayed there for several years neither improving nor particularly getting worse—just looking good and walking right. He eventually shuffled himself off sideways into running his own business—a restaurant. This failed shortly afterward because he forgot Rule 2: Never Stand Still— or maybe he never actually knew it. He carried on walking like a manager instead of a restaurateur. His customers never really took to him.
By practicing the general manager’s walk, I got the promotion, but I also got it because I paid great attention to doing my job well—Rule 1. Once in this new job I was, of course, completely out of my depth. I had to quickly learn not only my new role and all its responsibilities, but also the position below, which I had not really held. I had stood in for managers but I had never been a manager—now I was the manager’s manager. I was in great danger of falling flat on my face.
Never Let Anyone Know How Hard You Work
But I was, by now, a dedicated Rules Player. There was only one recourse—secret learning. I spent every spare second available—evenings, weekends, lunch breaks—studying everything I could that would help me. But I told no one— Rule 13.
Within a short time I had mastered enough to be able to do the job well enough. And the embryonic Rules of Work were born.
Have a plan
Being a general manager was both fun and pain. It was 50 percent more work but only 20 percent more pay. My next step, logically, was regional director. But it didn’t appeal. More work—much more work but for not that much more money. I began to develop a plan (Rules 24–34). Where did I want to go next? What did I want to do? I was getting bored being stuck in the office all the time and all those endless dreary meetings. And all that time spent at head office. Not for me. I wanted to have fun again. I wanted to practice the Rules. I formulated my plan.
What the company didn’t have was a roving troubleshooter—a sort of general manager’s general manager. I put Rule 4: Carve Out a Niche for Yourself into play. I suggested to the chairman that a report was needed. I never suggested that this was the job I wanted, but the agenda was obvious, I suppose. I got it, of course, and became a peripatetic general manager, answerable directly only to the chairman and with a job description I wrote myself. And pay? A lot more than the regional directors were on, but they didn’t know and I didn’t let on (Part V: Look After Yourself). I cultivated their support and friendship; I was never a threat because it was obvious I wasn’t after their job. They may have wanted the money I was making if they had known, but they didn’t want the little niche I had carved out for myself.
And I did this without being ruthless, dishonest, or unpleasant. In fact, I was always diplomatic when dealing with the general managers. I treated them with courtesy and politeness, even when I had to confront them on some aspect of their job. I added If you can’t say anything nice—shut up and learned the rules in Part VIII: Cultivate Diplomacy.
Knowing the People Who Count
And I quickly learned that if I wanted to know what was going on in a branch, it was best to speak to the people who really knew—the maintenence staff, the receptionists, the cashiers, the elevator attendant, and the drivers. It was important both to identify these people and to be on the right side of them— Rule 94. They supplied me with more information than anyone would have believed—and all for the price of a simple “Hello Bob, how’s your daughter doing at college these days?”
The Rules of Work took shape. Over the next few years I watched them grow up and gain maturity and experience. I left the corporation and founded my own consultancy. I trained managers in The Rules of Work and watched them go out into the world and conquer their destiny with charm and courtesy, confidence and authority.
But I see you have questions. How do these Rules work—are they manipulative? No, you don’t make anyone else do anything; it is you that is changing and improving.
- Do I have to become someone else? No, you may need to change your behavior a bit, but not your personality or values.You’ll go on being you, but a slicker, quicker you, a more successful you.
- Are they hard to learn? No, you can learn them in a week or two—but it does take a long time to really master them. But we are learning all the time and even practicing one Rule is better than none at all.
- Is it easy to spot others doing them? Yes, sometimes, but the really good Rules Players will never let you see what they are doing; they’re too good for that. But once you become a Rules Player too, it does become easier to see what Rule people are using at any particular time.
- Will I notice benefits right away? Oh yes, you betcha—immediately.
- Do I still do them? I wouldn’t even admit to doing them in the first place—I’m a Rules Player after all.
- Is it ethical to use the Rules? Yes. You aren’t doing anything wrong, merely utilizing your own natural skills and talents and adapting them, using them consciously. This is a key area for understanding the Rules—consciously. Everything you do will have been decided beforehand— you’ll still appear spontaneous, of course, you decided that as well—but you will be a conscious controller of any situation rather than an unconscious victim. You will be awake and aware, living in the moment and taking advantage of your own abilities. The bottom line is that you must be able to do your job—...