Too much Captain Von Trapp, not enough Fraulein Maria.

A little unseasonal this metaphor given The Sound of Music usually airs at Christmas time, and it’s the hottest day of the year, 32 degrees, but a discussion today made me think. Are some of us falling into the trapp (pun intended) of listening too intently to the rigid rules, specified outcomes, targets and multiple measures put in place by others to govern our work? Are we just like the children running towards the captain’s whistle-calls? The ones he used to rule the household before he saw the light and his affections transferred to his children’s new governess.

There will always be well-intentioned people who sit in offices and work very hard to develop rules, regulations and guidance with the purpose of raising standards or achieving consistency. This is a fact of life. We must get used to it – I am afraid. The best ones understand the value of consultation and collaboration with stakeholders and experts.

The law is the law. It is something I advocate following – of course. They are not all perfect and some need changing and bringing up-to-date. That’s for another day. But guidance is guidance. It is designed to be helpful and to advise how legislation and the ‘musts’ can be implemented. It is not the law. Instead it is a suggested path to your destination. It is such a huge shame that people don’t do things unless they are in guidance. We should. And if things are taken out of guidance for brevity’s sake, it does not mean we shouldn’t or couldn’t still do them.

Living and working in locally locked down Leicester has really turned me off guidance. It is all too obvious when you know it doesn’t match reality. So, follow it if you wish, pick and choose from it, or decide your own route. All those options are within acceptable bounds. Indeed, they should be encouraged. Once you accept this, then the options are limitless.

We can do lots of things that are not in guidance. We must. If we free ourselves from the shackles of guidance then we can better use our learned skills and experience and become innovators and creative beings. Just like Maria when she broke the captain’s rules and let go of her misplaced dream of entering the convent. It surely worked.

Maria knew the power of treating people as individuals, developing trust in relationships, and the joy and happiness to be found in play. Her methods all leading to self-fulfilment, learning and positive outcomes, love and change.

We too can include these principles and values in our practice even if they are not explicitly written in guidance. We can design our own routes to the destinations we are tasked with reaching. I frequently say that no-one has become an example of best practice by following guidance to the letter. And examples of best practice become the new inspirations for the next guidance, so we must play out part in the improvement cycle. If you innovate, you lead, you create the new solutions and best practice, you become a leader. And sooner or later even the most stubborn captain will come round to your way of thinking. Let’s all be Marias! Merry Christmas.

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