A leadership development resource

from the Institute for Leadership Excellence & Development Inc.

Volume I

Number 3

On the Horizon This Month:

Understanding the Unwritten Rules
Knowing the difference can make all the difference!

Special Offers from the Institute
Feeling overwhelmed, out of control, stressed out? We can help!

Leadership Voices: Managing in Difficult Times
It's your turn to speak up! Share your insights with our readers.

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question
John G. Miller has authored a great little book on how to be more accountable with how we think, talk, and act.

Leadership Links
Links to articles to help your personal and leadership development.

Rules, rules, rules!  Click on the book now to get your copy of this insightful work by Marcus Buckingham!  Check out Leadership Links for a related article by Marcus Buckingham.

Here is the follow-up work to "First, Break all the Rules!".  Click now on the cover to order your personal copy.




Definitely not just a book for soldiers!  This book has some valuable leadership lessons that we can all benefit from.  Click now on the book to add this resource to your leadership library!


"The real work of leadership is embracing uncertainty."  That's a taste of what Relax, It's Only Uncertainty is all about.  It's an enlightening book for leading in our current environment  Click now on the book to add this resource to your leadership library!

[Unwritten Rules]  [Special Offers]  [Voices]  [QBQ!]  [Links]  [I LEAD Online] 




Welcome to the March edition of Horizon Time!  The lead article this month discusses the issue of Written and Unwritten Rules and serves up ideas to help you identify gaps that might be impacting your performance.  Also, make sure to check out this month's question in Leadership Voices and share your expertise with fellow readers.  If the pace of work and life right now is a bit overwhelming, help is available in the Special Offers feature.  Finally, learn more about personal accountability through a short excerpt from John G. Miller's book, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question.

If you don't have time to take this all in now, print the newsletter out by clicking here to view the printer friendly version and enjoy it when you have more time.

Let me encourage you to forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues. They can join you and other subscribers on six continents who read Horizon Time each month!  As always, my commitment is to help you and those you influence become excellent leaders, and I would love to include your friends and colleagues in the learning. 

I trust you’ll benefit from investing time in this month’s Horizon Time. Have a great month!

Andy Kaufman

Speaker, Author, Coach

President, Institute for Leadership Excellence & Development Inc.



Understanding the Unwritten Rules

By Andy Kaufman


Have you ever worked hard trying to improve things at your workplace, yet end up frustrated with the progress or results?  Or perhaps you've had a goal to achieve but find that another month has gone by without any real progress?  I hear this a lot in group learning sessions and one-on-one with coaching clients. The concept of understanding written and unwritten rules is often helpful to getting beyond the frustration.

Life is filled with written and unwritten rules.  On the highway closest to your home, what is the written rule for the speed limit?  Here in the United States, it's usually 55 or 65 miles per hour.  According to the written rule, you are in danger of receiving a violation if you exceed this speed.  What about the unwritten rule?  If you go the same speed as the flow of traffic (even if it is substantially faster than the posted limit), your odds of getting a speeding violation are quite small.  In boating, the written rule says that a sailboat has the right-of-way over a boat under power.  All sailors know the unwritten rule:  the biggest boat wins!  I might have the right-of-way over an oil tanker, but you can bet I'm not waiting for him to turn!

Our personal lives have written and unwritten rules.  A written rule might be "I believe in taking care of myself."  The unwritten rule might be that sleep, exercise, and a reasonable diet are the first things I'll toss when the demands of life increase.  The written rule might be "My family is my top priority."  The unwritten rule might be that the job has me so consumed that even when I'm home I'm not really "home".

Organizations of all sizes have written and unwritten rules.  The official policy might be "Nothing gets done without the boss' signature."  The unwritten rule might be "''Do it and ask for forgiveness later' always works better than 'Please!'"  A software development organizations might say "We believe in re-use!", but the rule that everyone lives by is "Get the release out on time or else!"  Many organizations state "We empower our employees" but in practice, the real shots are called from up top.

Written and unwritten rules are not inherently good or bad.  The benefit comes from: 1) recognizing what they are, and 2) understanding the gap between them, and 3) taking action on the insights.  Let's look at these more closely.

Recognizing the Rules

Recognizing the written and (and perhaps more importantly) the unwritten rules in an organization can help you more effectively get things done.  Written rules are about intentions--how we want things to be.  Unwritten rules are about reality--how things really are.  The truth is that reality always wins over intentions.  Get a better grasp of the unwritten rules in your organization and you are better equipped to navigate the waters necessary to get things done.  While everyone else is following the written word, you are getting things done because you understand what is necessary within the organizational culture.  In an environment where we increasingly need to influence without direct authority over people, a firm grasp of the unwritten rules of an organization can provide significant help.

Understanding the Gaps

Mission statements lacquered on a wall plaque are only meaningful if the gap between their words and the reality of day-to-day in the organization is very small.  The wider the gap, the greater the organizational illusion.  You may recall the Jerry Weinberg quote from January's Horizon Time:  "It may look like a crisis, but it's only the end of an illusion."   If you pretend to focus on customers, respect employees, value quality, (or whatever else you say is important) but do not follow-through in reality, the illusion will eventually lead to a crisis.

Taking Action on the Insights

There are always gaps between the written and unwritten rules in the real world.  If your organization is filled with them, don't be surprised and don't use it as an excuse to just complain!  The issue is: Where are the biggest gaps?  What can you do to take advantage of the gaps, if appropriate, and help close them, where possible (check out the QBQ! feature below for additional healthy questions to ask).  A great place to look for remedies is taking a realistic look at incentives currently in place.  If you say one thing but incent people (even subtly) to do another, there should be no surprise that gaps exist.  Use this new knowledge to take the initiative to make things better!

And may I encourage you to take advantage of this knowledge to improve your personal life as well.  Regardless of what people say, I generally find that a quick review of their calendar and checkbook provides a reliable window into the reality of their life.  Take the time to identify what really is important to you.  Even if you aren't living it out today, what do you really want to be true about you?  Feeling courageous for a dose of reality?  Take the risk of asking your spouse or a close friend how they think your real life lines up with your desires.  Closing the gap requires filling in some blind spots.  With this information you can then make the tough decisions necessary to more closely align your schedule, your resources, and your energy with those things you value. 

Here is my March challenge for you: Get your team together and do a little "Unwritten Rules" exercise.  The Team Questions section below provides one way to run the exercise.  You might want to do a similar exercise on your own, or perhaps with a loved one or coach, to tackle gaps in your personal life.

Do you want to be more effective in achieving personal goals you have set?  Do you want to be more effective at getting things done at work or making it a better place to spend the best hours of each day? There is power in taking an honest assessment of what is actually happening in the behaviors and choices of the real world.  Take time to recognize the unwritten rules, understand the gap between them and the written rules, and then take action based on the insights you learn.  You'll be amazed by the results!

Team Exercise

  • Directions: Before the meeting, print out this newsletter and have copies available for team members.

  • Ask the participants to take a couple minutes to read through the newsletter article.  Ask them to highlight interesting points.

  • After everyone is done reading, have people draw a big "T" on a piece of paper, providing two columns for the exercise.  Have them label the left column "Unwritten Rules" and the right column "How this helps/hurts".  The idea is that unwritten rules can have trade-off's--they can actually help in some ways, but cause harm in others. Ask the team to spend 2-3 minutes brainstorming Unwritten Rules they have observed in the day-to-day reality of the workplace, and the consequences of them.

  • If you took more time, you could undoubtedly identify more issues, but keeping the time to a couple minutes will draw out the most obvious issues. 

  • After the allotted time, go around the room soliciting one unwritten rule at a time from each person.  Have the person mention what they put in the "How this helps/hurts" column as well.  Record the comments on a flipchart that has a similar two column setup.  You will probably have some rules repeated as you go around the room--there's no need to write the same issue on the flipchart twice. 

  • Get agreement on the top 2-3 rules that have the widest gap or worst consequences.  This can take some discussion, but use this time to focus on where the greatest return for any change would be.

  • Have the team brainstorm together ways to start shrinking the gap on these 2-3 rules.  NOTE: It might mean that some written rules need to be modified to be more relevant.

  • Begin taking action on the ideas generated in the session.

  • Send me a quick e-mail summarizing an unwritten rule gap that you identified and some ideas that came out of your session!  Thanks!

 Return to top

 Printer-friendly version



Special Offers from the Institute

  • Do more?  How can I realistically keep up when there is more work than people to do it?

  • Work/life balance?  How can I even consider that when the demands keep increasing at work and home?

  • Develop my staff?  How can I find time to grow myself and my staff when we can hardly make it through the day?

Can you relate to any of those questions?  Our organizations are filled with people who struggling to keep up with the demands of life, at work and at home.


In the opening of my learning session called Beyond Time Management, I ask participants to describe the current pace of life in a word or sentence.  Inevitably I hear responses like, "Out of control!", "Overwhelmed!", "Hectic!", and "Stressed Out!".  What would your response be?  Most organizations today are filled with people who are feverishly treading to stay above water, and in the meantime, things are falling through the cracks, people are getting burned out, and the ultimate impact on them, your customers, and your organization are far more critical than most leaders realize.


I want you to know that I can help you and your organization.  Beyond Time Management is a powerful learning session that is helping people at all levels of organizations get back in control of the responsibilities they are trying to juggle.  The highly interactive session is extremely practical and focuses on proven concepts and steps you can take to get back in control--regardless of whether or not you think you're an organized person.  Help is available for you, and companies all over the U.S. are benefiting from this practical teaching.


"The way you interacted with the audience was truly remarkable. You brought folks into the presentation and made them participants instead of attendees. Frankly, I have attended several presentations by Dr. Stephen Covey and others and find you to be their equal. Your approach certainly seems easier to follow." participant from the University of Arizona

"I am in dire need of getting more organized. I think with some of the tips we got today, I will increase my sense of accomplishment, reduce stress, and be more productive!", participant from Information Resources, Inc.

Would you like to provide practical help for those in your organization or association?  Contact me today to schedule the Beyond Time Management learning session at your location.  As a Horizon Time subscriber, you are eligible for an exclusive benefit!  If you schedule a Beyond Time Management session prior to April 15, 2002, I will include a free one-hour follow-up coaching session with a person of your choice a month after the session.  This $200 benefit will help make sure you not only get the content to help you get back control of your life, but you'll also get expert coaching to make sure it is actually implemented.  As with all my learning sessions, I personally 100% guarantee your satisfaction Contact me today to get your session scheduled.

Earn Big Referral Commissions!

Chances are you know someone who is working in an organization or belongs to an association that is struggling to do more with less, deal with changes, or improve their ability to deliver on business objectives.  I can help them!  Just get their contact information over to me at (866) 884-5323 (or by e-mail to andy@i-leadonline.com).  Referrals leading to speaking engagements earn a finder's fee based on a percentage of the speaking fee.  Commissions normally start between $300-$600, depending on the level of your involvement.  Contact me today for details!

Attend Software Development West Conference and Save!

If you are in the software development industry and are looking for some ways to get value for your training dollar, I highly recommend the Software Development Conference West, April 22-26.  You can find out more about the great sessions and speakers at www.sdexpo.com.  When you sign-up, use promotional code 2WSPKR and you will get $300 off!  Stop by my Birds-of-a-Feather session on the evening of April 25 or my breakout session on Friday, April 26!  Check out the Crowne Plaza San Jose Downtown for great room rates!  See you in San Jose at SD West 2002!


 Return to top

 Printer-friendly version



Leadership Voices: Managing in Difficult Times

By Andy Kaufman


This month we are starting a regular feature called Leadership Voices.  You have definite opinions about what has worked for you (and not worked) in the real world, and your expertise could inspire another reader currently wrestling with an issue.  This feature lets you be the expert! 

This month the topic has to do with managing in difficult times.  The task of being an effective manager is never really easy--in good times or in bad.  As long as humans are involved, there will always be challenges for those who manage!  But difficult times bring their own special dynamic. 

Please take a moment to put together a short reply to this question:

What are the top 3 challenges you face during these difficult economic times, and what are 2-3 key lessons you have learned to help you manage effectively?

Just click here to send your reply to me via e-mail.

Responses to the question will be included in next month's Horizon Time.  Thank you for taking the time to share your expertise and insight with your fellow leaders!

 Return to top

 Printer-friendly version

Recommended Reading
Below are some top reading recommendations for your personal and leadership development.

Click here to visit the QBQ Home!

Buy a copy of QBQ now or download the e-Book for free!  Click on the cover above now for more information.

Click here to order!

Many readers enjoyed January's interview with David Allen.  Click on the cover above now to buy his excellent book Getting Things Done.

Interested in getting a better understanding of how to re-engage your organization?  This is the book for you!  Click now on the cover above to add it to your collection.


This is an engaging book with laser focus on the role of personal responsibility.  True recognition must focus on results, not just effort.  Click now on the cover above to learn more!


QBQ! The Question Behind the Question


Personal accountability is a topic that doesn't really get much air time.  However, the lack of personal accountability in the workplace consumes more of your time as a leader than you might realize.  And, after some honest reflection, it could just be that personal accountability is something you and I could improve on as well!  John G. Miller is author of the book QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, an easy reading book that teaches some powerful lessons on personal accountability.  Rather than interviewing John this month, he has given me permission to include the short first chapter of his book.  Information on how to get your own copy of John's book is available at the end of the excerpt.  If you don't have time to read this all now, consider clicking here to view the printer friendly version so you can print it out and read later.  Enjoy!


It was a beautiful day in downtown Minneapolis when I stopped into a Rock Bottom restaurant for a quick lunch. The place was jammed. I didn't have much time, so I was happy to grab the one stool they had available at the bar. A few minutes after I sat down, a young man carrying a tray full of dirty dishes hurried past on his way to the kitchen, but noticing me out of the corner of his eye, stopped, came back and said, "Sir, have you been helped?"

"No, I haven't," I said, "but all I really want is a salad and a couple of rolls."
"I can get you that, Sir. What would you like to drink?"
"I'll have a Diet Coke, please."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Sir, we sell Pepsi. Would that be all right?"
"Ah, no thanks," I said with a smile, "I'll just have water with lemon, please."
"Great, I'll be back." He disappeared.

Moments later he came back with the salad, the rolls and the water. I thanked him, and he was quickly gone again, leaving me to enjoy my meal, a satisfied customer.

Suddenly, there was a blur of activity off to my left, the "wind of enthusiasm" stirred behind me and then, over my right shoulder stretched the "long arm of service," delivering a 20-ounce bottle, frosty on the outside, cold on the inside, of - you guessed it - Diet Coke! "Wow!" I said. "Thank you!" "You're welcome," he said with a smile, and hurried off again.

My first thought was, "Hire this man!" Talk about going the extra mile! He was clearly not your average employee. But the more I thought about the extraordinary thing he'd just done, the more I wanted to talk to him. So as soon as I could get his attention, I waved him over.

"Excuse me, I thought you didn't sell Coke?" I asked.
"That's right, Sir, we don't."
"Well, where did this come from?"
"The grocery store around the corner, Sir."
I was taken aback.
"Who paid for it?" I asked.
"I did, Sir; just a dollar."

By then I was thinking profound and professional thoughts like, "Cool!" But what I said was, "Come on, you've been awfully busy. How did you have time to go get it?" Smiling and seemingly growing taller before my eyes, he said, "I didn't, Sir. I sent my manager!"

I couldn't believe it. Was that empowerment or what? I'll bet we can all think of times we would love to look at our "boss" and say, "Get me a Diet Coke!" What a great image. But beyond that, his actions paint a marvelous picture of personal accountability and The Question Behind the Question. We'll go into the specifics of the QBQ in the chapters to come, but for now let's take a look at my server's thinking and the choices he made.

It was the lunch rush. He was already busy with plenty to do. But he noticed a customer who, though not in his section, looked as though he needed some attention, so he decided to do what he could to help. I don't know what was in his mind at that moment, of course, but faced with a similar situation, many people would have had thoughts like these:

  • "Why do I have to do everything around here?"
  • "Who's supposed to be covering this area, anyway?"
  • "When is management going to provide us with more products?"
  • "Why are we always so short-staffed?"
  • "When are the customers going to learn to read the menu?"

It's understandable that someone would feel and think that way, especially when frustrated, but the truth is that these are lousy questions. They're negative and they don't solve any problems. Throughout the rest of the book we'll refer to questions like these as Incorrect Questions, or IQs, since nothing positive or productive comes from asking them. They're also the complete opposite of personal accountability because in each one, the implication is that someone or something else is responsible for the problem or situation.

Unfortunately, though, they're often the first thoughts that come to mind. It's a sad fact that when most of us are faced with a frustration or challenge of some kind, our first reaction tends to be negative and defensive, and the first questions that occur to us are IQs.

The good news is this: That moment of frustration also presents us with a tremendous opportunity to contribute, and the QBQ can help us take advantage of it. The moment the IQs pop into our heads, we have a choice. We can either accept them - "Yeah, when are we going to get more help around here?!" - or reject them, choosing instead to ask better, more accountable questions such as, "What can I do to make a difference?" and "How can I support the team?" This, in a nutshell, is the essence of the QBQ:

Making better choices in the moment by asking better questions.

That's exactly what my server did. He didn't ask IQs and get caught in the downside of the situation. Instead - in the moment - he disciplined his thoughts, made better choices and asked better questions. Whether he used the words or not, his actions clearly indicated accountable thinking such as, "What can I do to help out?" and "How can I provide value to you?" His choices made the difference.

As I left that day, I gave him a good tip, as anyone would have, bouncing my quarters across the bar. (Just kidding. It was the excellent tip he deserved.) And when I returned a couple of months later and asked for "my favorite server, Jacob Miller" - I love his last name - the hostess said, "I'm sorry, Sir, Jacob is no longer ... "

My thoughts flew fast, "NO! You lost my own personal server? You lost a guy who looked at me and thought, 'What can I do right now to serve you!?'" I just couldn't believe they had let him get away. But I didn't say any of that to her. I simply interrupted with, "Oh no, you lost him?" to which she brightly responded, "Oh, no Sir, we didn't lose him, he was promoted to management."

My first thought was, "Management, what a waste!" (Go ahead, smile - even if you're a manager.) The truth is, I wasn't at all surprised that Jacob, with the way he thought, would be so quickly on his way toward his chosen goals. That's the difference personal accountability can make. Everyone wins: customers, co-workers, the organization, everyone. And for Jacob, beyond the tips and the promotion, I can't help but think the greatest win of all is the way he must feel about himself at the end of a day of making better choices, asking better questions and practicing personal accountability.


John G. Miller is the author of two books, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question and Personal Accountability. He is the founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm based in Denver, Colorado, dedicated to "Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value." A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been actively involved in the organizational development and speaking industry since 1986. John lives in Denver with his wife, Karen, and their seven children. If you would like to learn more about John G. Miller and the Question Behind the Question, check out the QBQ web site at www.qbq.com.

 Return to top

 Printer-friendly version

Recommended Services
Below are some companies whose services I recommend for your consideration.

Want to simplify your life? Check out how PayMyBills.com can help! I have been a happy customer for over a year and I love how I can manage my bills with a couple clicks, whether at home or on the road.
Click here to learn more.



Want to save some money on the price of ink jet replacement cartridges?  Click on the image above to find out more!

Leadership Links

Each month I include links to help in your personal and leadership development. Here are the links for this month!

"Don't Waste Time and Money", by Marcus Buckingham, Gallup Online Columns.  Organizations are constantly wrestling with the question, "What is the best way to increase each employee's performance?"  Are you putting your hope on competencies?  Don't waste your time and money, according to Marcus Buckingham. 

"Relax, It's Only Uncertainty", interview by Kevin Pierce. Business Prescriptions Radio.  Kevin Pierce conducts 5 short audio interviews with educator and author Randall White on his book by the same name.  Check it out to see if the book by the same name is for you.

"Skills:  Successful CIOs stress business acumen, not technical expertise", by Eric Berkman, March 1, 2002 CIO Magazine.  This isn't news, but technical leaders need to be reminded:  if you want to succeed, you must improve your communication skills and your business knowledge.

"Managing Difficult People", by Paul B. Thornton, CEO Refresher: refresher.com. Are you stuck with some difficult people to manage?  Paul Thornton provides some ideas on how you can navigate this challenge.

"They've Got Game", by Stefani Lako Baldwin, Winter 2001, Gallup Management Journal.  What makes a great salesperson or business hire?  As we move into the Final Four fun of March, here's an article that draws lessons from the world of basketball. 

 Return to top

 Printer-friendly version


Staying in Touch

Horizon Time is written by Andy Kaufman and is available via e-mail or on the Web for free to all registered subscribers.  You are invited to forward this newsletter to anyone interested in growing their leadership skills!


If you have any difficulty with the hyperlinks in this newsletter, you can view it online at:



You can access past issues of Horizon Time by visiting www.i-leadonline.com/NewsletterIndex.asp.


If this newsletter was forwarded to you by a colleague and you would like to automatically receive a copy each month, you can subscribe by clicking here.  You can unsubscribe by sending an e-mail to unsubscribe@i-leadonline.com.


For more information on Andy Kaufman and the Institute for Leadership Excellence & Development Inc., please visit our web site.


You can contact Andy by phone toll-free at (866) 88 I-LEAD (866-884-5323), or by e-mail at andy@i-leadonline.com

Editors and Newsletter Writers!  Would you like to use some of the material from this newsletter in your newspaper, magazine, newsletter?  You may by including the following credit line:
"This article is used by permission from Andy Kaufman's free monthly newsletter 'Horizon Time' available at www.i-leadonline.com."   Please call or send an e-mail to let us know you used the article.

This information cannot be used for resale in any manner.

Horizon Time contains hyperlinks to web sites operated by persons other than the Institute for Leadership Excellence & Development Inc. (I LEAD). Such hyperlinks are provided for your reference and convenience only, and I LEAD is not responsible for the content or operation of such web sites. A hyperlink from Horizon Time to another web site does not imply or mean that I LEAD endorses the content on that web site or the operator or operations of that site. You are solely responsible for determining the extent to which you may use any content at any other web sites to which you might link from Horizon Time.

Copyright © 2002, Institute for Leadership Excellence & Development Inc. (I LEAD)