Set ground rules to guide your personal behavior, and grow your career

I often work with teams to work through an issue or do some future planning. As a part of the process, we develop ground rules for guiding our behavior during the meeting. Similarly, I am asked to help organizations with a cultural transformation. And ground rules help the leaders stay on course. So, it occurred to me that it would make some sense to have some ground rules for guiding my personal behavior in my career.


These have worked very well for me, so perhaps you might consider some ground rules for yourself.


I won’t be a spokesperson for someone else.

This is a recipe for trouble. Speaking for your manager, coworker or employee backfires on a regular basis, so why do it? The next time a peer says, “I really have a problem with Jack. Hey, you’re closer to him than I am, why don’t you go talk to him for me,” say, “I think he would appreciate hearing it from you. If I get in the middle it will only make it worse. I’ll help you figure out what to say.”


I won’t engage in gossip about anyone or anything.

It’s so tempting to throw in your opinion or speculate on a juicy situation. But it’s not worth it. Even if you simply agree with the person spreading the gossip, you can bet your name will be used when she stirs the pot with someone else. “And Joan feels the same way I do!”


Instead, say, “I don’t really want to get into it.” Or, “I’m sure he has good intentions…” Or, “Let’s go and ask her if that’s true.”


Silence is agreement…I will speak up if I disagree.

If you sit silently in a meeting and say nothing, and then go out in the hall and express your true feelings, you will not only look weak, people won’t trust you because you don’t speak your mind.


I will always pass on compliments and congratulate successes, however small.

This seems so obvious but it’s surprising how few people do it. Noticing someone’s efforts wins friends and appreciation. “Say, I noticed your car was one of the last ones in the parking lot last night. You must really be putting in loads of hours on that new project.”


Passing on something that you heard from someone else, not only compliments the person, it spreads the goodwill to include the person you’re quoting. “Thought you’d like to know, I heard Susan singing your praises at the Distributors meeting last week…”


I will make people feel smart and important.

Everyone’s ego and self esteem are at the heart of the job they do. “What a clever idea!” “I couldn’t have finished this on time without you.” “I knew I could count on you.” Don’t you like hearing comments like these? Imagine the boost people will feel when you notice them and acknowledge them. They’ll like to be around you and they’ll love working with you.


I will work for the greater good.

It’s easy to get mired in the quagmire of conflicting needs. And the workplace is filled with needs and expectations. Any time I’m pulled into a conflict, I remind myself to keep the organization’s best interest in the forefront. It leads me to the right answer every time.


With my team, I will disagree in private and stand united in public.

No matter what your differences, there is no excuse for sharing dirty laundry with outsiders. Complaining to other departments, customers or vendors is bad form. It makes the complainer look underhanded and disloyal. Trust will be earned if you can put the issues on the table and resolve them privately.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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