How to Apply 4 Rules of the Road as Workplace Lessons 


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On a recent trip to Florida, I observed three types of drivers.

  • Older adults. Many appear to struggle seeing clearly and have decreased reflexes which results in slow driving and slower reaction time.
  • Younger adults. Often, they speed, cutting off other drivers as they weave in and out of multiple lanes without using turn signals.
  • Out-of-towners. These people are driving unfamiliar rental cars on unfamiliar roads .Taking their eyes off the road to fiddle with their navigation apps equals a lot of distracted drivers.

Adding these behaviors together is akin to navigating a minefield. Stressful. Frightening. Hazardous. It made me wonder if driving styles and personalities are related. According to numerous published studies, they are, and people are genuinely interested in why. Tom Vanderbilt’s book Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do and What It Says About Us, examines the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheel is a best seller. Vanderbilt observes driving is one of the most complex things we do in our lives and when we forget that it’s not as easy as it seems, we get into trouble.

Wanting to learn more, I came across a quiz at LittleThings.com asking readers to determine which driving style best matches their personality. For example, the quiz positions an “Adventurer” as a risk taker who enjoys thrilling activities like bungee jumping and skydiving. I imagine that means this person is a more aggressive driver who will grab the road with gusto.

Then there is the opposite labeled “Nervous Nellie”, an anxious person who shies away from high-risk activities. On the road, Nellies probably takes it slow and plays it safe and may take longer to make decisions.

Then I began to wonder how this translates to the workplace. If someone who is a perfectionist was taught to keep their hands at “10 and 2” on the wheel and always does, does that mean they are more likely to be as exacting at work? If so, how does their pursuit of perfection affect their ability to interact with others? Are they more likely to decide their way is the right way?

While there is a good amount of literature on how personality affects driving behaviors, statistics vary according to age groups and countries. However, in my experience working closely with leaders and their employees, I believe habits of all drivers regardless of age or location can also offer us valuable lessons when handling life’s lanes.

Don’t take it personally

While you might be horrified by the driver who pulls in front of you with very little room to make a left-hand turn from a right-hand lane, even though their behavior puts you in danger, their aggression may not be directed toward you. At work, you also can’t control what others say and do. You can only control what you say and do and that should be your focus.

Set an example

If someone is tailgating you and blaring their horn, it’s imperative to stay calm and if you can, move out of the way. On the road and at work, you may prevent the situation from escalating. You are also setting an example and taking responsibility for your own actions. Attitude matters.

Adapt and adjust

If traffic is backed up for miles and you are going to be late to an appointment, do you sit for hours or do you look for alternative routes? Probably the latter. Developing problem solving skills and the ability to change lanes is not something that comes easy to everyone. Improving these skills can build confidence and improve credibility at work.

Be present

It’s normal to check our rear-view mirror or glance at a billboard because most of the time our gaze is on the road in front of us. When we fidget with our phones and other technology, accidents are more prone to happen. At work, it’s also important to focus and be present when others are speaking to us.

Finally, while older, younger and out-of-town drivers are not limited to Florida, regardless of where the road takes you, it’s important to remember the rules of the road apply to everyone regardless of title or position. Having your own unique style is great as long as expressing it doesn’t put others in harm’s way.

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