Every organization has rules that govern how employees behave. Over time, organizations all seem to add rules but never remove rules. The problem with piling on rules is that they tend to be demoralizing and demotivating for team members

By Steve Moran

I spent last week in Philadelphia taking a very very expensive, week-long intensive public speaking class. This is not a Toastmasters-style class (not being critical of Toastmasters), but rather a class for folks who are looking to make a living or a significant portion of their living being paid to speak.  

I took it for three reasons:

  1. I am a pretty good public speaker and each year speaking fees represent a very tiny portion of my total income. What I needed to figure out was if I have the ability to up my game in this area . . . in other words, can I sell myself as a public speaker? The answer to this question was a resounding YES.

  1. I needed to learn how to make my pretty good public speaking great. As with many of these kinds of things, there is great value in natural talent but there is also a great deal of craft that can be learned. This week of schooling made me a lot better and, more importantly, gave me new tools to continue to grow and be great.

  1. I have a new keynote I am working on where I talk about how senior living organizations can create teams or cultures where every team member loves coming to work every day . . . even after a terrible day of wiping bottoms. I made some big improvements in the speech.

Going into the class, we were told two things: First, there are a bunch of rules about public speaking that help speakers be better at their craft. Second, there are almost always occasions when those rules need to be broken. There were a few rules that would govern the week of learning and that breaking those rules would — or at least could — result in immediate expulsion from the program with no refund.


Every organization has rules that govern how employees behave. Over time, organizations all seem to add rules but never remove rules. When new rules are created it is generally in response to a problem. And mostly they are about protecting the employer though often they are written under the guise of protecting residents. 

Rules That Serve

The hard and fast rules we all had to agree with at the speech class were this:

  1. We were not allowed to give advice to any of the participants in the class; only the instructors could do that.

  2. We were not allowed to be critical of anyone’s performance or material.

  3. We could only give feedback in very limited circumstances.

  4. We could only give positive feedback.

These were perfect rules because they were crafted not to serve the teachers but to serve the students who were paying big bucks to be there. In some sense, they served the instructors and the program itself, but really they only served the program to the extent that they made it possible for each participant to get the most benefit from the program.

Would This Work In Senior Living?

I am realistic enough to know that some rules are necessary and some are required by the law and legal system. Too often though rules are made to solve a problem that could really be solved with a one-on-one. I find myself wondering how it would be if a senior living organization had a “rule” that new rules could only be created when either the law required it or the rule primarily benefited the workers?