Leadership is the ‘Platinum Rule’

The Golden Rule.  Feels like something most of us have known, and been taught, from when we were young – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Basically, ‘treat others as you want to be treated’.  Simple enough, right?

While a very good concept as a basic thought & principle, to find success at work and in leadership, I always felt it needed to go one step further.

Several years ago I stumbled upon a concept called the Platinum Rule.  I will attribute my learning to a Dr Tony Alessandra (an originator of the concept, as far as I can tell, in this book from 1998).

The Platinum Rule simply states:  treat others as they want to be treated.

While a very simple concept, it is profound in its application in the workplace, in leadership, and in our personal lives.

A couple of simple personal examples:

  • Once I received a Christmas gift from someone I know fairly well, and am fairly close to.  The gift was well intended but was very obviously something this person would have chosen for themselves.  The sentiment was basically, “I would love this gift, so I know Scott will as well.”

Probably more of a ‘Golden Rule’ type gift (and for the record, it was not my wife.  She is an excellent gift giver! LOL!)

  • A few years ago at work, I was talking with a certain manager about some recognition he was giving his team for a job well done on a certain project.  He was very excited to call out excellent performance of these team members.  As he was talking through each person, he shared that for one lady on his team, he was going to pull her aside, and in a private, 1:1 setting, express how important her contributions were, and how much he appreciated her.  “Why not do that in front of the whole group?” I asked, thinking I was adding an element of excitement to his recognition.  “Because she would hate that.  She’s told me.” He replied, very matter of factly.

Wow!!!  True “Platinum Rule” recognition – he did it in a style that she preferred, and would appreciate.  I learned a lot about the Platinum Rule that day.

The best leaders I have ever known use this concept constantly – it is almost second nature to them.  The communicate in a way the other person prefers (thus increasing the effectiveness), or they assign tasks, follow up, and check in the way the other person prefers.  It’s awesome.

Please share comments below!  Have you ever worked with a leader who truly demonstrated the Platinum Rule on a regular basis?

 

Beware of the ‘Friend Zone’ with your employees…

I think we have all worked with, or around, a boss who is waaaaay to impersonal, right?  Like, he/she doesn’t really take time to connect on a personal level, is always way too busy, and just doesn’t really seem to care, right?  It is a pretty common occurrence, unfortunately.

Many who have been in that position swear that, when given a shot at leadership, they will be the exact opposite of that person.  He swears he will be a personable, attentive, loving boss that always cares about his employees, much like a best friend would.  He remembers this commitment so fiercely, they are really quite committed to it.  Sounds good, right?

Well…  there’s a downside.  A serious downside, if you let that pendulum swing too far the other way.

You see, a boss who is too cold, and impersonal, and detached can fail to build trust and thus not lead effectively.  But a boss who goes too far in trying to build trust can actually damage his/her own reputation and trust with others by entering the “friend zone”.

I think of it like this:

friend-zone

The danger zone on the left side is obvious – that’s the one we see frequently and try to correct.  The danger zone on the right side (what I will call the “friend zone”) is much less obvious, but in some ways almost equally as dangerous.

Imagine you are a boss, who in an effort to build camaraderie and trust (in addition to satisfying your own desire for something ‘social’ at work, to create a fun work environment) goes to lunch, hangs out after hours, invites others on some weekend activities like concerts, sporting events or other non-work activities.  Harmless enough, right?  Well, let’s step back and take a look… Continue reading

Play the Odds – 5 strategies for overcoming your fear of trust

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

Let’s address this difficult situation of people that will likely take advantage of you if you are willing to give trust. So let’s play the odds.

Even though trust is not safe it can still be a wise investment. The question is, do the rewards outweigh the risks?

Everyone will eventually disappoint you in small ways. (And guess what? You’ll disappoint them, too.) A few people may betray you outright. But consider for a moment how many people we’re really talking about. How many people, of all those in your life, are really going to take advantage of you if you offer trust before it is earned? Twenty percent? Ten? Two? I guess that, on average, the number is closer to two percent than it is to twenty. Yes, a few people may abuse your trust. But do you want to live and act for the two percent, or the ninety-eight percent?scale

Imagine a weights and measures scale. Put the risk of the two percent on one side, and the
benefit of a trusting, generous relationship with the ninety-eight percent on the other.

Which is heavier?

A Disclaimer

I know many of you are sitting there thinking of all the situations where giving unearned trust doesn’t make sense. Keep two things in mind:

First, I’m assuming the relationships in question are ones where you actually want to win, where you have a vested interest in the relationship being the best it can be, and where collaboration is critical. If that’s the case, let’s apply these ideas. If not, you don’t need to invest time or energy into building trust.

Second, I am not speaking to the extremes. If you have experienced a betrayal of trust amounting to psychological or physical abuse, address it appropriately. Ask a friend for help, get a counselor, talk to a mentor, or read one of the many great books out there that address healing and boundaries on a personal level.

But most of life should not be a crisis. I want to speak to the rest of the time, to normal person-to-person interactions.

If you are struggling with the idea of giving trust – consider the following 5 strategies: Continue reading

Why I don’t own our ‘Culture’…

Some thoughts I would share primarily with HR friends & acquaintances, but also for general leadership and workplace knowledge…

I have noticed a popular trend in the HR world. There are a lot of companies who have labeled their HR leaders and HR department as “people and culture” or just “culture”.  It has caused me to reflect on this practice and the role of HR professionals (regardless of what they are called).

On one hand, HUGE props to these companies who understand the importance of culture in the workplace.  To impact engagement, and ultimately overall business results, culture is a MUST.  It is an absolutely vital ingredient to success.  So that’s good.

BUT…

As an HR professional and leader, I don’t want the word “culture” to ever be in my title.

Wait.  WHAT?

Why not?

Because, very simply…

EVERYONE OWNS CULTURE

We are all responsible for building it, guarding it, preserving it, and enhancing it through our actions and behaviors.  This is something that no one person – nor any single department – “owns”.  Everyone shares the responsibility equally, starting at the highest levels of every company.

Now let me be clear.  Because the focus of HR is people, I definitely feel our purpose in the company is to teach, drive, and motivate the behaviors that will build the culture (this starts with my own personal actions, to work and lead in a way that will enforce the culture established by the company).

I would be concerned that having the word “culture” in my job title or description may give others in the organization that they don’t need to act as owners and builders of culture.  It is extremely important for every person in the company to know they own and impact the culture (and ultimately the success) of the company.

Remember: #everyoneownsculture.

HR Professionals – please comment below!  I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you agree with this concept, how does it really play out in practice?

The single hardest thing about management…

Anyone who moves into a management position will tell you that at some point, things change.  Something clicks.  A switch flips.  Suddenly your job becomes much harder.  The problem is, it is really hard to identify why that happens, exactly.  After all, you have worked for managers before, and observed what they do (or didn’t do)… it isn’t that hard, right?  Well, or so you thought…

Then you got the big promotion.

Boom.  It all changed.  It all got WAY harder.  (maybe not immediately, but eventually it did…right?).

Why is this, exactly?

Simply put – because virtually nothing in management is black or white.

There is no simple formula for success as a manager.

Consider a few examples –

  1. A member of your team has lost all motivation and isn’t performing his job well.  A ‘prescription’ of how to cure this condition would be great.  Even the standard processes (call them performance management, or progressive discipline, or whatever…) are not completely black and white most of the time.  The most common answer becomes “it depends” – because there are so many reasons and factors and data points to consider.  There’s no magic switch to flip that will instantly motivate a person, unfortunately.
  2. Team meetings are a drag.  Everyone arrives late, people are totally disinterested, check their phones, or even create reasons (excuses) not to go.  But you know that an effective team meeting should be very important!  (and I agree with you)  So what do you do?  Is there a magic structure for meetings, or agenda to follow that will suddenly make them brilliant?  Sorry, nope.

…and the examples go on.  So many things that seem daunting, overwhelming, and frustrating are simply that way because they aren’t “black and white”.  There’s no simple solution.  Each will require a unique approach to solve them, completely different from what others may offer, and completely different from what you have done in the past.

So, what does this mean?

Well, it means that your success as a manager will depend on your ability to understand and evaluate each individual situation to decide on the best course of action.  It is HARD work.  It can be long, tedious, and frustrating.  There’s no magic bullet.

But understanding that there isn’t an easy answer is the first step.  You’ll stop looking for easy solutions, or waiting for a magic date to arrive when it all becomes easier.  It won’t.  You just need to roll up your sleeves and start doing work!

What do I do now? Continue reading

The BIG lie about TRUST – 5 reasons why trust is not earned

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

Nobody comes to the discussion on trust empty handed. We all have strong feelings about it. We know how it feels when trust is misused, betrayed, or withheld. Our perspectives are real and have been informed by a lifetime of experiences, pain and broken relationships. Sometimes these conclusions are helpful and sometimes they hold us hostage.

Over the years I’ve come to a surprising conclusion: our most popular theories about trust are often untrue and almost always unhelpful.

What I’m going to share will likely go against everything you’ve ever heard or thought about trust. Of all the flawed theories flying around about trust, there is one that is more prevalent and also more damaging than any other:

Trust’s Big Lie: Trust is something that is earned.

The Truth on Trust: Trust can’t be earned. It can only be given.

I know, I know. This is a lie that even I have believed for most of my life. The problem with it is that it just doesn’t make sense.

When we’re deciding how much to trust someone, we usually ask ourselves whether they have earned our trust. That seems like the smart thing to do. Until they earn it, we withhold trust to protect ourselves. We put protective policies in place. We micromanage to maintain control and create limits and boundaries to our relationships.

But the truth is, trust can never be earned. Trust can only be given.

Trust is the responsibility of the person who wants high trust. If you want others to trust you – it’s your responsibility. If you want to be able to trust others – it’s your responsibility. If you are committed to giving and building trust, and determined to overcome any obstacles that stand in your way, you will win high trust. If you work patiently and with perseverance to lead your team towards a high-trust, high-performance culture, you can see it happen. Ten of the most powerful two-letter words in the English language are: If it is to be, it is up to me. If you are to have high trust in your relationships, it starts and ends with you.

I fully realize that this line of thinking might make you squirm. When I’m working with my clients or speaking on this topic, this is where everyone starts to jump out of their seats.

Over the next few posts, I will outline why this lie is damaging, how you can better approach trust and give you a vocabulary for making this thinking stick.

For now, ponder these 5 reasons why trust cannot be earned: Continue reading

A simple definition for “Stratetgic HR” (!?!)

Over the course of my career in HR, the buzzword ‘strategic’ has always been present.  Admonition like “be more strategic” or “we’re not strategic enough” becomes common as we HR professionals find our way into valuable business contribution and the proverbial ‘seat at the table’…

However, no one could ever really define what it means to be ‘strategic’ in HR.  Can’t describe how many seminars, conferences, and other meetings I was in where that simple charge was shared:  “Be more strategic”… yet, I couldn’t really find anyone who could give a really good explanation of what that looked like.

So, in an attempt to share what I’ve learned, and give others something to build on for themselves, I share my ‘work-in-progress’ definition of Strategic HR:

Strategic HR is the alignment of culture, talent and leadership with the company’s overall strategy.

Seems simple enough, right?  Three key ingredients that HR professionals can own and/or influence, that will prove your ‘strategic’ worth.  Talent.  Culture.  Leadership.  Align them with each other, always focus on the company’s strategy, and you’ll be on your way!

strategic-hr

First and foremost, company strategy.

Do you understand what your company actually does, and how it gets done?  Do you understand the processes and people that make it all happen?  Do you know your company’s competitors?  How about competitive advantages over those competitors?

Do you know your company’s goals (both annual and quarterly)?  Do you know your company’s mission or vision?  (not just the words on a page, but what it actually means)

Do you understand the direction of your company?  Plans to grow?  Plans to reduce spending?  Plans to acquire or be acquired?

These pieces are a bedrock of knowledge that will give HR professionals the credibility necessary to connect with business leaders, and contribute in strategic ways.  #relationshipsmatter  #credibilitybuildsrelationships

Now, the three pillars that should align to it (understanding, of course, that this is merely scratching the surface of each one): Continue reading

The Most Dangerous Threat to Culture & Leadership

Team.  Department.  These terms describe a group of people together.  We are all working together, right?

At first glance we may be, but have you ever noticed someone who just isn’t quite “part of the team”?  You may be noticing the first signs of a dangerous threat to your own culture and leadership:  isolation.

One of my favorite TV Shows, Lost, had a great scene early in the series that dramatizes the effect of isolation (scene takes place shortly after their plane had crashed on a desert island):

As you lead your team, you may not feel such a dramatic impact or risk of isolation, but maybe you did notice people who exhibit signs such as:

  • closing their office door
  • working with earbuds in, seemingly all the time
  • “too busy” for things like team meetings, team lunches or workplace activities
  • demonstrating a “just leave me alone to to my work” attitude in any number of ways

On the surface, these things seem pretty harmless.  But if left unattended, that kind of behavior can become contagious; it will start to erode your team’s culture, and undermine your own leadership.  It is important to address early on.

There are many causes of isolation, but a few environmental factors can make it more likely:

  • someone is new to the company
  • someone is new to the team, or department
  • someone works remotely, or in a different location
  • someone has done their job for a really long time and doesn’t really “need” anyone else for help
  • someone who just wants to come in to work, do their own job and go home

Individuals in these categories may simply be more likely to isolate themselves.  Many times this happens so subtly over time that they don’t even perceive it.

But I guarantee your team will be much better off if you eliminate isolation.

My advice to you, as a manager?  Be aware of these causes of isolation – if you identify possible risks or warning signs, take action!  Build trust with that person.  Connect.  Work with them and talk to them on an individual basis, in a meaningful way.  That is the heart of leadership.  Connecting with people.

What do you think?  How have you overcome isolation in a team you lead?

Comment below!