Sometimes you just have to hold things out there and wonder a bit … asking a question or two while accepting there may not be an easy answer. Sometimes the question itself can create the possibility of a shift in momentum. That’s the spirit of conversations on most any front porch. Or so it used to be. The engagement in the conversation is enough … because the conversation gets you thinking. The thinking drives awareness. Awareness opens the possibility of seeing things you’ve missed. It holds the possibility of seeing things in ways that are new … or so long forgotten … they have the potential to become new again.

Sometimes the questions themselves can take-on a plethora of criticism before the conversation ever begins. That could very well be the case as we gather on this month’s Front Porch. It is especially true when you call into question the possible negative nature of a good thing! Like a reliance on compliance.

Could it be possible that the degree of regulation needed in an organization (as large as a nation or corporation … or as small as an entrepreneurial adventure or a family) is in direct proportion to the depth, or lack of it, that the organization embraces and engages core values individually and collectively?

Setting regulations must be easier than inspiring core values.

Enforcement is more convenient. It can take less courage. It gives a follower, in a leadership position, something to do … rather than trying to become the leader who others would truly be inspired to follow. Allow me to push just a bit further!

You can never regulate yourself to greatness. Regulations have proven necessary, in some form or fashion, in most any society. They come packaged in the form of laws, federal and private contracts alike. Any regulation adds complexity and steps to the process. Then again, regulations may create order, they may force a change of direction, or they may provide protection.

But regulations can also be the pain killer covering-up the greater problem at-hand.

While necessary, they are rarely wanted … unless, of course, we are regulating someone else. We generally strive for regulations that have more of a direct impact on others rather than ourselves. That alone may be worth a self reflection!

But I think we would be hard pressed to find cases where regulations inspire anyone or anything to greatness.

Regulations create limitations and expectations … but rarely motivation and inspiration. Almost without exception, regulations hold things back rather than propel things forward.

That changes a bit when it comes to self-regulation … the regulation ignited by our own choice. Yet that, too, is often still created from a place of desired elimination. Regulations prevent what we are trying to avoid rather than what we are striving to achieve … or longing to be.

We will likely never be fully void of the need for rules or regulations. This is more about ratio than riddance.

Every athletic event has rules and their own compliance officers called referees or umpires. But then again, no one likes when they make a call that can decide the game … unless, of course, that call is in your own team’s favor! Even in sports … the rules, refs and umps are there because players, coaches and teams aren’t wired and conditioned to call-out their own violations of the spirit of the game.

I’m not proposing the elimination of rules and regulations. I’m just raising some questions. Why do we put so much energy into regulations and so little effort into investigating, indicating and integrating core values?

It seems to me that when a country or a company spends billions of dollars on something … like the creation and enforcement of regulations … that it’s fair to ask a few questions. It seems it’s fair to wonder if we’ve completely missed an impactful and untapped resource that could not only save us billions but in fact inspire the creation of billions more. What is more inspiring … elimination or creation? Regulations, by design, eliminate what we don’t want.

Core values, by design, create who we truly want to be.

Again, I’m not advocating simply eliminating rules and regulations. We have tried that before with undesirable results. It’s obvious they are currently needed. Rarely do you eliminate the need for something simply by trying to get rid of it. It can leave a dangerous void. It is far more profound to create something that ultimately makes whatever you want to eliminate no longer necessary. Ironically, by the way, trying to eliminate “that which eliminates” is a bit contradictory! It is far more about discovering a relational correlation.

It is precisely the relationship of core values and regulations.

The question really comes down to what are you relying-on? Is it a reliance on compliance … or a reliance on core values? Don’t you think it’s a question worthy of a response? The surface level answer would be “both” … the deeper reflection centers on the proportional amounts.

In an organization, that response doesn’t begin with a first step. It begins with a leader.

Today’s post is the featured article from the June 2014 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.