Cartoon: Rule number one: Always be prepared for a quick exit

Eight Rules to Live and Work By

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

Over the years, I have developed some basic rules to live and work, mostly work by. They will keep you out of trouble, enhance your charm and facilitate your success.

1. Always be prepared to make a quick exit

This has long been my number one rule. You never know when you may need to leave a place very, very quickly. So, park your car with the nose pointed outward, you'll save several seconds on a quick escape. Whenever you are in a room, take notice of the exits. Flying? Take note of the exit nearest you and remember, it could be behind you. This is explained in every pre-flight safety video or lecture. And it could save your life; so put down your book and pay attention! Going to a social event you are not sure you'll like? Prepare a quick exit excuse for your host.

Likewise, if a project goes bad, do not throw more money at it. Do not keep working at it when you know in your heart of hearts that it's not going to work. Drop it like a hot coal and start on something new. Has a client become more trouble than it is worth? Dump them.

You never know when things will turn bad. But, when they do, you do not want to hang around. You want to flee to someplace better. Be prepared.

2. Leave no evidence

If you are thinking about doing anything morally, ethically or legally questionable, leave no evidence! If you set up a construct to avoid paying taxes, do not discuss it with your dodgy accountant via email. Do not even discuss it on the telephone. Meet her in a bar, ensure she has at least one alcoholic drink in her and share your ideas then. If you are going to hire a hit-man to take out a competitor, do not send a text message to the hit-man. Do not prepare a written contract. Speak face to face with the hit-man's agent.

Want to fire an incompetent and unlikeable employee? In the written explanation, be sure you clarify that you are firing her because she has broken specific rules or laws. Do not complain about subjective shit that is not grounds for dismissal in your jurisdiction.

3. Collect evidence

When you are working for a client or with business partners, save and file every communication, no matter how seemingly irrelevant. Save the agreement, emails and even chat conversations. That way, if things go bad, you have a paper trail to prove that you behaved admirably while the other party behaved like shit (see also item 2, "Leave no evidence" above). This helps immeasurably if there is ever a dispute between you and the other party.

ITo ensure that evidence makes you look good, only create evidence in which you look good. Be impeccably polite, friendly and businesslike in all communication, irrespective of how the other party acts. This will only make you look good when the dispute needs to be settled.

Amazingly, few people are aware of the paper-trail they leave. Indeed, when I have had disputes with clients, I have generally been able to settle the issue by emailing (or faxing in the old days) documents that prove my argument and make theirs look questionable at best.

4. Treat women with utter respect

Treat women with complete and utter respect for two reasons. Most importantly, do it because women deserve such respect. Secondly, do it because too many men and even women do not treat women with respect. Thus, your respect towards any competent woman is likely to be reciprocated.

On the other hand, if you treat women as inferiors; if you assume the woman coming to greet you in the lobby is a secretary, when she is in fact a senior manager; if you show more respect to men than women in an office, if you interrupt women in meetings, those women are more likely to treat you like a contemptible jerk. And rightly so.

You do not want to be treated like a contemptible jerk, even if you are one. So, treat all women with at least as much respect as you treat men.

5. Dump responsibilities on others

Technically, dumping responsibilities on others is called "delegation". The truth is, you should go beyond delegation and dump as much of you work on others as you possibly can. This leaves you with a light workload and allows you to focus on stuff you want to focus on rather than on doing work others could do better.

And do not micromanage! When you hand an assignment over to a direct report, let her do it her way. If the results are not good enough, explain why and let her try again. If you tell her precisely what to do, watch over her shoulder and correct her whenever she appears to be veering from your way of doing things, you are not delegating. You are not dumping responsibilities on others. You are making your own workload even heavier while pissing off a perfectly competent person.

Instead, delegate and let the suckers do the tasks any way they want to. Meanwhile, enjoy having more time to get up to mischief.

6. Flattery will get you everywhere

Research has shown that, with the exception of one personality type, you can never over-flatter a person. Nearly everyone loves flattery and eats it up like a Thanksgiving dinner. Moreover, when you flatter someone, she will tend to like you more and see you as being more intelligent than others because she credits you for being insightful enough to recognise her ability, knowledge or whatever.

The exception? People with low self-esteem. Because they think poorly of themselves, they will tend not to believe your flattery and suspect that you have ulterior motives. They are probably right, be you do not want that. So, when you come across someone with a low self-esteem, either get rid of her (and probably damage that self-esteem further) or help her build up her self-esteem so that she is conducive to flattery. I recommend the second choice. There is no point in making unnecessary enemies.

7. Give away your ideas freely

If you have a great idea for your organisation, give it away freely. Share it with a senior manager and convince the manager that the idea was hers from the beginning. This is far easier to do than you may think. People love to think they have great ideas and are surprisingly capable of claiming others' ideas as their own, particularly if the owner of the idea encourages it.

If you want your company to adopt a particular marketing strategy, discuss it with the VP of marketing and, by the end of the discussion, tell the VP that her strategy was brilliant and you hope she'll implement it. Clearly, the VP is more likely to implement her own idea than that of of someone else.

8. Always remember your manners

Always remember your manners. Say, "please" and "thank you" whenever they might be warranted. Put your commands in the form of requests. When ordering your direct reports to do something, always say please and always thank them for their advice. When an idiot at a networking event gives you daft advice, thank her for it and ignore it.

Be polite to waiters, sales clerks, taxi drivers, cabin crew and everyone else no matter where they sit on the social ladder. Be polite even to people who are being rude to you.

Being rude offers no benefits. Being polite requires little effort, but ensures that you are respected as a gentlewoman or man. It ensures that you are taken seriously. And it makes you look far better in disputes than the rude shit who dares to disagree with you.


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