Great Leaders Follow the Platinum Rule

Three strategies great leaders use to help employees overachieve

You may be “connected” with them on LinkedIn or chat with them at the office party, but do you really know your employees? Leaders who truly get to know the interests, needs and motivations of their employees will energize their organization. More importantly, they’ll create other great leaders. Here are 3 strategies I believe help get the best from employees.

Forget the Golden Rule; follow the Platinum Rule.

I don’t mind if you do not ask me about my weekend. However, I have colleagues who enjoy discussing their personal life in the office. That’s why I say: Don’t follow the Golden Rule – “treat others as you would like to be treated” – but follow the Platinum Rule: “treat others as they would like to be treated”. If I treated all employees the way I wanted to be treated, then I’d never ask them about their weekend.

Just like you’d segment your customer base, you need to do the same for your employees. Some employees are more effective with the sense of camaraderie. Others might find it distracting. As a leader, that means tailoring your communication to treat everyone as an individual (or groups of individuals as segments) to make sure you are operating effectively.

A useful way to segment your employees is to learn how each person in your organization defines success. Some employees define success as career achievement, others greater responsibility or balance in their work/personal life, and yet others as higher salary.   All are important to the diversity of a team, but a leader can’t treat all of them the same.

A good leader understands how employees define success and leads them accordingly.

Great leaders who understand what drives each individual are now invested in that employee’s success. They know the answer to the key question: “what defines success for you?” If you had a leader who asked you, “how can I help you to be as successful as possible based on how you define success”, wouldn’t you stay in that organization? Wouldn’t you come to work everyday with a bounce in your step and be unbelievably motivated to follow that leader?

Great leaders live generously.

Yes, there’s a philanthropic aspect to leadership, which is important. However, great leaders are also generous with their time and talent: they are great coaches and trainers. I believe great leaders spend 50% of their time developing their people. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a lifetime”. How much time are you spending teaching, coaching, whiteboarding, modeling, and jointly working on business issues with your colleagues?

Anyone can tell someone who reports to them what to do, but a leader spends time showing them, demonstrating it, encouraging it, and helping with cycles of improvement. How much time are you spending with your direct reports?

Great leaders promote fairness.

Fairness can mean a lot of things to different people, which is another reason why you need to deeply understand the motivations of each individual. I believe it is about the calibration of expectations. A great leader says, “Here’s what’s expected of you. I will treat you fairly based on that personal contract that we’ve made between us”.

The single biggest indicator of fairness in an organization is a meritocracy.

Do your people understand what the expectations are? When they meet or exceed goals, do they advance or have the opportunity to get more experiences? Another way leaders promote fairness is to be decisive. Nothing is more unfair than to leave your employees hanging because you, “Need more time,” or “Want to get more input,” or “Want to have another meeting.” Be decisive and let your employees do great work.

Tell me about the leaders you’ve had that put a bounce in your step. You can comment here or tweet at me @Hillen_Paul

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