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 and 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, and 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, 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.
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. 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, and what you said at meetings everything was being judged, evaluated, and 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?