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.
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
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.
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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 the 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.