My wife and I, along with 18 million other people, are fans of the #1 scripted show on t.v.: NCIS.

The leading character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, (played by Mark Harmon) is a no-nonsense former marine who heads up a Navy crime investigative team. Known for his famous “Gibb Slap” where the thwacks the back of the head of one of his team, Gibbs is tough, thorough, and disgustingly handsome.

The team frequently refers to a set of Gibb’s 51 rules that define the behavior and expectation of the team. Although there is never an explanation of all 51 rules, here are a few of them:

Rule #1: Never let suspects stay together. This is the first rule of investigation not a real Gibbs rule.

Rule #1: Never screw over your partner.

Rule #2: Always wear gloves at a crime scene.

Rule #3: Don’t believe what you’re told. Double check.

Rule #3: Never be unreachable.

Rule #4: The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person – if you must. There is no third best.

Rule #5: You don’t waste good.

Rule #6: Never say you’re sorry. It’s a sign of weakness.

Rule #7: Always be specific when you lie.

Rule #8: Never take anything for granted.

Rule #9: Never go anywhere without a knife.

Rule #10: Never get personally involved in a case.

Rule #11: When the job is done, walk away.

Rule #12: Never date a co-worker.

Rule #13: Never, ever involve a lawyer.

Rule #15: Always work as a team.

Rule #16: If someone thinks they have the upper hand, break it.

Rule #18: It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.

Rule #22: Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation.

Rule #23: Never mess with a Marine’s coffee… if you want to live.

Rule #27: There are two ways to follow someone. First way, they never notice you. Second way, they only notice you.

Rule #35: Always watch the watchers.

Rule #36: If you feel like you are being played, you probably are.

Rule #38: Your case, your lead.

Rule #39: There is no such thing as coincidence.

Rule #40: If it seems someone is out to get you, they are.

Rule #42: Never accept an apology from someone who just sucker punched you.

Rule #44: First things first, hide the women and children.

Rule #45: Clean up the mess that you make.

Rule #51: Sometimes – you’re wrong.

The Gibb’s rules are a reminder that a team needs a set of rules not just to determine behavior, but to define who they are.  For example, all basketball teams have to play on the same court by the same set of rules. Referees enforce those rules. However, each team often has their own set of rules that define them.  Team rules are a culture-within-a-culture.

Philosophers say there are four things all humans want to know:

        1. Where’d we come from
        2. Why are we here
        3. How do we treat each other
        4. Where are we going

Rules are about defining who we are and how we treat each other. They speak to the core of our beliefs and value systems.  Fifty-one rules might be a bit much for most teams; ten might be a bit more appropriate.

Are you a part of a team? What are some of your team’s rules? Would you mind sharing them with me?