Better than the Golden Rule
The Golden Rule suggests that “treating others as you want to be treated” is the best way to operate as a human being and thus, as a successful businessperson. And yes, it’s much better than treating others as “less than” yourself. Being demanding, rude, inconsiderate, pompous, condescending or less than polite certainly won’t make you any friends or encourage others to follow your leadership. But this is something your Mother already taught you. To be successful as a leader and deeply influence and impact others, you need more than basic courtesy. You need the Platinum rule; “Treat others as they wish to be treated”.
Shockingly, not everyone wants to be treated as you want to be treated. About three quarters of the people would prefer to be treated quite differently than you. They think differently, decide differently, use time differently, interact differently than you. As a successful leader, it’s your job to determine how they want to be treated and act accordingly. Although this sounds simple, it’s really a huge challenge.
We all live in our own reality and assume others join us. If this were true, the Golden Rule would work beautifully. Unfortunately, it’s more like we’re from different countries and speak different languages. Think scientists and lawyers, engineers and investors, human resource folks and Board members. And that’s not even taking into account personality style and interaction preferences. It’s takes persistent attention and observation to learn how others want to be treated.
I once spent a month in the Brittany and Normandy areas of France. Although my French was passable, I couldn’t express everything I wanted to say clearly or completely understand what others were saying to me. (It did help that I drank lots of Calvados). When I was on a ferry to England at the end of the trip and found an English speaker, I was so relieved to be fully understood and to fully understand another person, I cried with a complete stranger.
That’s how profound the impact can be. Yet, it is only half the battle. Once you know how another would like to be treated you have to be willing to treat them that way. This is much harder than it sounds. We are attached to the way we do things and think it’s the best, and only, right way. It’s very difficult to treat others as they want to be treated while thinking in our heads how they are just wrong and annoying. So expanding your thinking to include the possibility that others might appreciate a different approach, and that there is nothing wrong with them, AND, being willing to treat them as they wish to be treated really is enlightening.
Christian Rommel and I discuss this topic in the most recent Profiles in Success. Also see my interviews with Christian on Building Airplanes While Flying Them and the Golden Globes of Leadership. Be sure to subscribe to the Leading from Center YouTube channel to get the latest interviews from startup leaders.