Paul Butler: The rules of the road

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

Awhile back, I picked up a ticket from a police officer in Muscatine, Iowa. My crime? I drove over a STOP line at about 7 mph. When one of Iowa’s finest came out from hiding to stop me, I was aghast that I’d committed the crime especially as there was no line on the road indicating the said STOP sign.

Having said that, I did have to admit, the BIG RED STOP sign on the street was fair indication. On the positive side, I did feel good about contributing to the Muscatine economy with the payment of my fine — as far as I could tell there wasn’t much else going on in Muscatine, Iowa, that morning.

Rather like we have rules of the road to keep us and others safe, we have to have the same in the workplace. Just as vehicles can cause damage to property and potential loss of life, I can see how human beings can tremendously hurt each other in the workplace, if not governed by rules.

What is it within the human condition that can cause so much damage on the highways and byways of the workplace?

After more than 12 years of doing what we do at Newleaf Training and Development, I am beginning to realize there are certain laws, or you could say principles, that govern whether we have a good journey in the workplace. Innately, the rules of the road make sense to us — it’s wise to stick to your side of the road; not to drive while intoxicated; not to speed or to be distracted while driving, and to read directions given on signs, to name just a few.

Likewise, there are rules or principles that make sense to us in the workplace. We know, for example, it’s best to treat people in a way we, ourselves, would want to be treated (aka the Golden Rule).

We understand that we reap what we sow (aka the Law of the Harvest). We prefer to work for leaders who see themselves as servants — they turn the traditional organizational pyramid upside-down (aka the Law of Servant Leadership).

So if we know the rules of the road, why are there still accidents? Why did I pick up a ticket from my new friend in Iowa? Likewise, why are most people unhappy at work?

Why is “teamwork” an oxymoron in most places of work? If we understand the Law of the Harvest, why do most people want to get by on the bare minimum in today’s workplace?

With so many experts calling out that servant leadership is the way to go, do we still have so many bent-out-of-shape, workaholic managers who don’t listen to their people, who want to micro-manage every minute detail?

Just as our roadways show evidence of accidents, why do we see carnage between people in most workplaces?

I am so grateful for the work we do and I can honestly say if there weren’t bills to pay and kids to help through college, I would do what we do for free. Having said that, I often think to myself that we shouldn’t be needed. You’d think if we were advancing as a people we’d have learned how to lead; how to manage ourselves; how to sustain work-life balance; how to serve customers and colleagues superbly well and how to steward our organization’s resources as if they were our own.

But, nope. Just as new drivers come on to the road every year who are very likely to make the same mistakes their fellow drivers do and those who went before them did; new employees start work every year and need to be directed on how to manage themselves and influence others.

So until we’re living in a perfect world, the Iowan police officer will continue to earn a living by helping to hold back evil, prevent crime and correct numbskulls like me from not adhering to the rules of the road. Likewise, at Newleaf Training and Development we will, thankfully, continue to earn a living by reminding people of timeless principles of how to work with others on the highways and byways of the workplace.

I just wish we could give out a ticket now and again for poor performance, as I’d be a zillionaire!

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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