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The Good Work Of Rule Breakers

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

RULE BREAKING is expected for creative and innovative work environments. Creators and innovators are in roles where their performance is realized by breaking rules. Look around your work environment and you may notice increased rule breaking happening. Creativity and innovation are seeping into our organizations.

How might rule breaking transcend to the corporate world and what makes it a good thing? For me, this theme has taken forefront of my thoughts from some routine construction outside my office building. Repairs of the building exterior resulted in the sidewalk being closed. In my typical approach to taking the most efficient route, I attempted to walk along the street under repair. I was chided by the supervising worker and she pointed out the "sidewalk closed" sign. I inadvertently found myself in the same situation later that day, honestly it was not intentional, as I exited the building. This time, I was the recipient of a stronger scolding, reminded to read signs and to be attentive to my safety. Day 3 of building repairs saw me exit a different door to be faced with the same sidewalk closed signs, only this time it was different. The gentleman waved me forward, pointed where it was safe to walk and watched the oncoming traffic as I walked in front of all their equipment. In the first two instances I was breaking rules and in the third with someone else's assistance, an efficient alternate route was found to overcome the obstacle.

When should we push to be rule breakers and when should we be rule followers? The definition for the right circumstances and timing make it a complex navigation. Rule breaking in organizations can lead to innovation and productivity. As in most change scenarios, the timing and audience play dramatic roles in reception and adoption. It feels like risk tolerance and the involvement of fixed mindsets are two key personality attributes that may show up with our organization's participants and why they may resist the rule breaking. When people are pushed outside their comfort zones, most us revert to long established behavior and mindsets. How do you create rule breaking that is a pull experience rather than a push? In our enthusiasm and drive to realize a goal we focus on what we individually see and are driven towards. As you push forward your concept, test boundaries and potentially break rules, you may push those around you outside their comfort zone, embed a fixed mindset further and find yourself negatively labelled as a rule breaker. In a pull scenario, you can help those around you see rule breaking with a growth mindset and have them willing to manage the risks associated with some rule breaking. Imparting your vision, it's value and the return on risk to support pulling people into your sphere of testing boundaries of the typical rules. Just as change takes time, positive impact rule breaking will need some space to achieve the breaking. The boldness and focus of the rule breaker can result in your working outside the team norms.

If we only ever work within established norms, we are faced with a future of status quo. In a world of constant and rapid change, status quo is not an option.

Find comfort in your discomfort.

  • Find comfort in your discomfort.

  • Use your growth mindset.

  • Find some rules to break.

  • Pull others in.

  • Learn and evolve your rule breaking.


Lisa W. Haydon is the President and Founder of Pivotal Coaching Inc. She left her comfortable corporate career several years ago to follow her passion of helping people realize their potential and companies to realize high performance. Lisa is a growth focused entrepreneur, leadership development consultant and certified executive coach. To her clients, she brings business experience with prestigious corporations and continuous education. Lisa’s work in business operations and B to B sales expertise allowed her to create a differentiated coaching model and client experience. Lisa and Pivotal Coaching are known for 1:1 and cohort Programs in leadership development and sales effectiveness.

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