Skip to Navigation

Where do You Draw the Line?

Bookmark and Share

Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket? Seeing those blue, flashing lights in my rear-view mirror is enough to give me a mini heart attack.

When I was younger, I got a ticket while passing through Ringgold, Georgia. I was clocked going 76 miles per hour (mph) in a 55 mph zone…but I can explain. The speed limit was 65 mph, and I was going 75 mph because I thought police allowed drivers a 10 mph buffer.

When the officer pulled me over, he told me the speed limit changed to 55 mph, and he had clocked me at 76 mph. A speeding violation of 20+ mph, for drivers under 21, is grounds for having your license suspended.

I told the officer I thought the speed limit was 65 mph, and I was driving 75, which was within the 10 mph buffer. The officer said I should have been paying more attention to the signs and there is no 10 mph buffer. He said 55 mph was the speed limit, not the speed range.

He was right.

I was not paying attention to the signs, and I chose to speed because I thought the risk for getting stopped was low. When the speed limit dropped to 55 mph, I found myself drifting 21 mph over the limit and nearly lost my license.

Fortunately, the judge had mercy on me, and the points were removed after I attended traffic school and paid the speeding fine. But, this experience taught me an important lesson that I will never forget.

“Walking down the wrong path begins with a single step.”

My willingness to go one mile over the speed limit was the first step toward me drifting 21 mph over the limit.

I share this with you because our careers can sometimes mirror our driving habits. We may be more willing to commit small rule violations because we believe there is a low risk of being caught or punished.

If your company policy states you cannot receive gifts from vendors worth more than $99, you might not see a problem accepting a $100 gift card, because it’s so close to $99.

Most of us would not expect to be punished for accepting a gift that is $1 over the limit. But, how do we determine the threshold for breaking a rule? Is $5 extra okay? What about $25 over the limit? Where should we draw the line?

It is a judgement call, but it is important to remember that anything over the limit can lead to trouble. If you are not sure if your actions are in violation, contact your supervisor, human resources team or legal department, to get their advice before moving forward.

As leaders, it is important to clearly communicate with your team members and empower them to make good decisions when you are not around. Think about a potential gray area or ethical dilemma that could occur within your business model, and challenge your team members to think about how they would respond. This exercise can create a memorable lesson that will protect you, your team and your company from making a mistake that could harm everyone involved.

Always remember, Leadership is a Lifestyle.

Ryan W. Hirsch