In my book “Theory You” I talked about a principal observation I made while working around the globe; executives poor at managing themselves were equally poor at managing others. There were certain executives with whom I worked who were oblivious to the problems they created by their personal behavior. One issue they all had in common was an attitude that the rules applied to others but did not apply to them. We see the same attitude in society in a number of different ways and this attitude most often finds it’s way into the workplace.

A friend told me a story this summer re: one person’s disregard for the rules at her summer home. She lives in a beach community and the community has a regulation that dogs are not allowed on the beach after 9:00 AM. My friend was working in her garden just after lunch and a young woman walked past her with her dog on her way to the beach. My friend did not recognize the woman and assumed she was a renter. She said to the woman “Excuse me, but we have a rule that dogs are not allowed on the beach after 9:00 AM.” The renter replied “I know” and then proceeded to take her dog onto the beach. Clearly the rule did not apply to her and it would be foolish to think the woman’s attitude toward rules did not come with her to her workplace.

One of my clients in Los Angeles had a regional manager on the east coast who believed the rules did not apply to him, specifically in regard to arriving at work on time. My client flew to this city on a red eye and was in the regional office lobby at 7:00 AM. He greeted all the people who arrived early to their job prior to the 8:30 required start time. At 9:00 he also greeted the regional manager who was arriving at his normal time. My client never said a word other than “Good morning”. He returned to the airport and flew back to LA. When he returned he found the regional manager’s resignation on his desk. My client knew if the regional manager ignored the rules he was a poor manager and sent the wrong signal to the regional office staff.

I stated in the earlier blog that we should only establish rules we plan to enforce with zero tolerance. Sometimes it’s better not to establish a rule.

Two women at our agency in Los Angeles gave birth at about the same time, both first time mothers. They both planned to return to work after their maternity leave. However, both had a different perspective after returning home with their babies. They approached me and asked if they could job share. Job sharing was a new concept at the time. They suggested several alternatives; work half-days, work three days one week and two the next, alternate weeks and so forth. I had great respect for both women and felt rules were unnecessary. I told them I had only two requirements: first, I asked them to work out their schedule each week between them; and second, to notify their supervisor in advance of each week so the supervisor could plan. They did as requested and everyone was pleased from their supervisor to their clients to me. Both women were very professional and thus a rule was unnecessary. A rule would get in the way of outstanding performance.

Think about these examples as you move forward in your career and consider either setting rules or enforcing rules.