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Limitations of the Golden Rule

Why aren’t other people be as dedicated and motivated as you are to work hard and get great results?

And, if you practice the Golden Rule (Treat others as you would like to be treated), why does that only work with some people and not others?

In our recent Front Line Leadership course, when asked what they wanted to get from the course, a third of the participants identified that they wanted some tips and techniques for dealing with a challenging employee.

So this week, let’s tackle the Golden Rule and recognize its shortcomings.

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Have a great week!

The Golden Rule

Its pretty straightforward, treat people like you want to be treated, or is it? The underlying assumption is that the people you interact with are motivated in the same way as you are.

Of course there is the manager’s version of the Golden Rule, “The Person With the Gold Makes the Rules!”

And aggressive managers have their own version, “Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you.”

Instead of the Golden Rule, consider practicing the Platinum Rule which is to, “Do unto others as they want and need to be done into.” Treat people as they want and need to be treated.

Putting the Platinum Rule into practice

– Get to know more about the individuals you work with (Peers), you work for (Boss) and who work for you (Employees). Everyone gives off clues as to what motivates them. Some will be more motivated by the need to fit in, others like recognition and many appreciate new challenges.

– Be inquisitive or curious about the behaviors others display and remember that in most cases, the behaviors we see in others are a reflection of how we treat them. This helps explain why some employees can be a thorn in the side of one supervisor and be helpful and positive with another leader.

– Make adjustments to your approach to see how it improves the relationships and results.

The best illustration I can share is that of a supervisor who attended one of our leadership courses. She had a problem employee and was used to catching that person make mistakes. We challenged her to find one thing the person did that was right and give some positive feedback. It took her three weeks to notice something positive! She said, “Thank you for cleaning up you work area, I appreciate it.”

The worker simply grunted, hardly a ringing endorsement. Undeterred, the supervisor continued to notice things that were positive and mention them. She noticed that there were more positive things happening.

Over a three month period, she transformed the problem employee who barely made his personal production target and was constantly negative, into a prized employee  who exceeded personal targets and actually helped others be more effective.

She learned a powerful leadership lesson. She couldn’t get the employee to change until she herself was willing to change. By looking for strengths, she turned the tone of their relationship from negative to positive.

Watch a humorous yet insightful video example of the right and wrong way of correcting an employee who is struggling.

Reflection Questions

Are you treating people the way you want to be treated or the way they want to be treated? Are you willing to change your approach to see if greater success is reflected in the other person’s behavior?

Action Items

  • Identify an individual with whom you don’t naturally get along, or who doesn’t consistently meet your expectations.
  • Greet the person warmly each day and engage is some small talk to find out more about them.
  • Observe the positive things that person does and build on them.
  • Watch to see if the individual’s behavior changes towards you.
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