It's Time To Start Following The Platinum Rule

It's Time To Start Following The Platinum Rule

Mitchell Buchanan Jun 14, 2018 8:07:00 AM

We've all heard of the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. While that's pretty sound advice, a new rule has made its way into the topic of employee development and team dynamics, and it might be even more powerful. Instead of treating people the way you want to be treated, the Platinum Rule keeps the focus on the other person: Treat others the way they want to be treated. A slight change in wording, but a massive change in employee well-being.

Great quote from The Art Of People, by Dave Kerpen:

We all grow up learning about the simplicity and power of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want done to you. It's a splendid concept except for one thing: Everyone is different, and the truth is that in many cases what you'd want done to you is different from what your partner, employee, customer, investor, wife, or child would want done to him or her.

Notice how we're not just talking about in the workplace. If you are in a relationship with someone, you need to convey value and love to them in the way they appreciate, not the way you are comfortable. This is probably the single-hardest thing about being in a relationship for many.

The equation is this:

Is there value being conveyed in a way that I understand, appreciate, and can grow with and from?

Pro Tip: Check out these 7 tips to improve team dynamics and employee engagement

The Work Side Of All This

We've got this myth that we should never equate work and personal. Makes sense at one level - but the reason relationships end and the reason jobs end (quitting) have 92% in common. So maybe we should discuss them in concert more.

Look at that question from up above again:

Is there value being conveyed in a way that I understand, appreciate, and can grow with and from?

That's work too.

People want value. They want to be valued. And it takes different forms.

There are a lot of folks out there who want a bigger salary, sure. Extrinsic, target-driven rewards and value. Got it.

But some people want flexibility. Maybe their child is sick, or they're taking care of an ailing parent outside of work. Some people want autonomy at work -- "please no micromanaging." Others want skill development. Some people just want a paycheck. A few, somewhere, want that Air Hockey table and free burritos on Fridays.

But the value isn't about what the company thinks or wants -- it's actually about what the talent wants and sees value in.

How Do You Scale That?

We just came to the central reason HR is often viewed as an also-ran at most companies.

They supposedly have all this data and insight on the staff, but really what they have is macro-level, potentially-anonymized, 1-to-5 type scores on generic questions.

That's really not information of value. Not in terms of designing more valuable experiences at the employee level.

You can only take "value/love back to employees" to scale via a 1-2 step:

  • Someone needs to care
  • Managers need to actually talk with their employees about how they connect back to work

That's it.

If you have those two elements in a company, you can get it.

If not, you have no chance.

Understanding Communication Styles

Just as every employee has a different connection back to the work, so too does every employee have a different way they like to communicate and be communicated with. Obviously the two big buckets we always discuss here are:

  • Extroverts
  • Introverts

It goes beyond that, though. Some employees hate meetings (many do). Some are scared of 1 on 1. Some might want to talk about the NBA for five minutes before any deliverables. Some just want to talk about to-do lists and get out.

You need to communicate via the Platinum Rule, too: how do they want to communicate?

An article from Introverted Manager sums this up pretty well. Suppose you've got 2 employees:

  • Employee 1 is quiet and reserved, someone who keeps their head down and keeps interactions brief.
  • Employee 2 is outgoing and communicative, someone who includes pleasantries in their conversations and values getting to know their colleagues in a more informal manner.

If you start having long, drawn-out conversations with Employee 1, how do you think they'll feel during that interaction? What if you start having short, abrupt meetings with Employee 2?

Everyone is different. That's important to remember, even though we often forget. Employee 1 doesn't want chit-chat - they want to get down to work. Employee 2 might feel hurt if you jump straight into the game plan. You might personally align with one or the other, or maybe you fall somewhere in the middle.

How To Apply The Platinum Rule

Monica Affleck from PeopleTalk breaks it down into 4 steps:

  • Show empathy
  • Be curious
  • Examine your biases
  • Listen actively

I'd argue that the fourth step here is actually an all-encompassing strategy. Active listening -  or as Affleck says, "listening with our senses" - allows us to show greater empathy, because we can get a better sense of someone else's point of view. Being curious, asking questions, looking for input from new sources, is only effective if you really listen to the feedback. And examining your biases isn't some activity you do on your own, ticking off a list in your mind. No - it's an active process, catching yourself making an assumption that might not be rooted in evidence. In fact, active listening might be one of the best bias-busting tools out there. Listen closer, and you might hear the truth overpowering your pre-set assumptions.

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The Platinum Rule is important to remember, not just because it takes the focus off of us and puts it on the other person - but because it means that the other person can do the same for us. Everyone meets in the middle. You might love small talk, but your employee might find it wasteful. So, cut down on the small talk. But your employee might know you love to chat - so they might be willing to tell you about their weekend before you get down to brass tacks. All of a sudden, hey, you actually do get the chance to do some bonding with your team, even if it's not the 15 minutes you would've loved. The Platinum Rule is a compromise, and the more people who practice it, the more fulfilling your interactions with employees and colleagues can be.

By becoming familiar with acting out these steps in a genuine way, Affleck argues, you're building bridges with the people around you. And as your team starts to apply the Platinum Rule themselves, they'll be building bridges too. In the end, everyone gives a little, gets a little back, and the team can work more effectively as a unit.

 

Topics: Employee Engagement, Coaching and Development

Mitchell Buchanan

Written by Mitchell Buchanan

Mitchell is a Marketing Operations Specialist at The McQuaig Institute. He is a University of Waterloo graduate in the field of Speech Communication, with a specialization in Digital Arts Communication.