Rules Don’t Matter Today

By Morag Barrett on October 29, 2012

Posted by Morag Barrett | October 29, 2012Rules Don’t Matter TodayThere has been so much press during the last few weeks chronicling the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong.  Judgements are everywhere calling into question his integrity, his values and his ethics.  I am not an expert in this area, I am not an avid fan of cycle racing, I know little of Lance Armstrong beyond what has been shared in the news over the last few years.  What I do know is that is always a shame when a major role model is seen to have made such a large and fundamental error of judgement, to have disregarded the rules of the game for personal gain.In the vast majority of cases the rules that we experience in our day-to-day lives (and there are plenty) are there for a reason.  In the case of sporting rules, to level the playing field, to ensure that performance is based on ability and not artificial enhancements.  However I am guessing that many of us have chosen to break those rules or to stretch our definition of them to suit our needs.  How often do you find yourself driving at 10  miles an hour over the speed limit?  Do you even give it a second thought any more?While our rule-breaking may not cause front-page news, our actions and choices can and do have as far-reaching impact.  As leaders in our organization, as members of our communities, as family members, we set the tone and role model behaviors (appropriate and inappropriate) every single day, our actions influence the organizational culture around us, impact the next generation of leaders and those around us.What the recent headlines have done is remind me of an incident that one of my sons experienced in his role as soccer referee for the local recreation league.  Recreation League means that the players (and parents) take the game seriously, but that ultimately the game is played for FUN.  It is this last point that, on so many occasions, the parents and coaches seem to forget.At the start of the last season my son conducted his usual pitch check, asking parents to move back from the sidelines about 3 – 4 feet.  A few parents were vocal in complaining that they had to move.  My son had the courage to point out that the sideline was not there for spectators to line up their seats up against but was to mark the field of play.  If the ball were to go out (as it does often), parents and bags, and chairs and dogs, are all at risk of being hit by the ball, or a player tripping over them, plus space is needed for the throw-in that follows!  Let alone the fact that in the older age groups there is a sideline referee who needs to run up and down and watch the play, not whether they are going to trip over a blanket!  Please move back!Following the check of the pitch comes the check of the players.  Each team lines up, the players rap on their shins to demonstrate that they have shin guards.  They tuck in their shirts (my son leads a smart game, plus the rules state that shirts must be tucked in) and finally any jewelry is removed; bracelets, watches, earrings, and this is where the situation became “interesting”.  The coach for one of the teams had not brought tape.  The rules of the league are clear.  No jewelry and if earrings are to be kept in they have to be taped up (if you know of anyone who has accidentally had an earring ripped out you will know just how painful and awful that is!).  My son restated the rules and that the player would not be allowed onto the pitch until the earrings were removed or taped up.  At this point the [adult] coach became quite animated and vocal at the referee [my son, not yet a teenager], the classic final words being“It’s the first game of the season, you aren’t supposed to apply the rules in the first game.”Despite having an irate adult berating him, my son stood his ground and that the rules DID matter, even during the first game of the season.  The other coach stepped in asked the angry coach to calm down, and the game commenced.  Tape was located and the player joined the group.A friend of mine recently reminded me of the quote by Sir Douglas Bader (A WWII Battle of Britain Pilot)“Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”How does this all link together?  Enforcing rules can at times take courage, especially when faced by someone who is “more senior” or by peer pressure to bend or break the rules. Know your own values and live by them, stand your ground and re-articulate the rules of engagement.  If you do choose to break rules, then do so deliberately and with forethought, and be prepared to stand up and take the potential consequences of your choice.Related ArticlesTags »characterDecision MakingEmotional IntelligenceTrustvalues Share
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