While guesting with the fabulous Frankie Picasso on her Mission Unstoppable Podcast recently, we got to talking about what kind of behavior impacts engagement. She reminded me of the Platinum Rule.

Now, you might be thinking…I know about the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and, although it may have emanated first from a holy book, it’s as universal as having a nose. But, what about the Platinum Rule?

When I am facilitating the Leadership Mastery series, I teach about this all of the time and, frankly, I had forgotten there was actually a rule about it. Happy for the reminder, I’m here to remind YOU.

The Platinum Rule is simply, “Treat others as THEY want to be treated”. This seemingly simple rule, kept or broken, can significantly impact engagement – so long as you are using it correctly.

Let’s dig in.

The Golden Rule is actually a problem we create in the workplace (or the world) without even knowing it. When we treat others as we would want to be treated, we have taken the focus off of the other and bounced it back to ourselves. We are saying, “Let me show you how I would prefer you do it in order to PLEASE ME”. The rule is a good start in terms of respect and regard but it stops short of what is needed today for connection and recognition.

The Platinum Rule is all about connection. You cannot execute this rule unless you truly know what the other person requires, what they like, what makes them tick. A risk, wafting off of the previous rule, is to make assumptions about what we think the other person wants. Can’t you see how that is still all about YOU?

The correct way to do this is to — wait for it—- here it comes—- ASK! Ask your employee, your co-worker, your boss, your wife. Ask what they prefer and what they want. And then, step two, LISTEN. Finally step three, take ACTION.

There is a positive outcome for executing this rule. Engagement, discretionary effort, good work attitude and enhanced communication are all positive effects of practicing this way of customizing personal communication.

Here is one example:

A large company I was working with questioned the effectiveness of the performance review process. This process, in it’s standard iteration, is all about MY assessment of YOU. In light of what we are talking about, can you see that would be problematic?

The team took a full year to create and perfect a new kind of review, the Talent Conversation, that shifted the conversation from assessment to inquiry. This “review” had a little more “preview” in it and perhaps there was still a bit of assessment but, the assessment was initiated from the employee. More important, the conversation focused on what the employee wanted to learn, perfect, grow and clearly articulated what success looked like from the company’s point of view. The process changed from the traditional look at lag measures (what has happened in the past) with a greater focus on lead measures (what can be created in the future). Most important, it was a robust conversation, creating connection and consideration of what kind of plan and ongoing interaction would support the employee for the growth they envisioned and desired. It also gave the manager personalized insight into what would support or diminish engagement. It busted assumptions and created data.

  • In this particular organization, the rate of internal promotions doubled. They are tracking for even more in 2018 as the organization is focused on where people want to grow and why they want to grow there.

You don’t have to re-do your performance management system to create this. You simply need to be willing to suspend your agenda and have a conversation with true intent to understand what the other person wants. Not everybody is motivated by the same thing. You can’t always give everyone everything that they want…but you can find out what makes people tick, what motivates them.

Maybe you want to start with one-on-ones with your employees. Good rule of thumb is to ask the associate to prepare the agenda and then let them talk 80% of the time. Scan yourself and you will likely see that you are doing most of the talking. How can you hear what is needed if you are doing all of the talking?

Or maybe you can start with rewards and recognition and kick the standardized, one-size-fits-all program to the curb in favor of fun and different ways of celebrating.

Wherever you start, begin with the OTHER in mind. Humans are complex and wonderful creatures and your natural sense of curiosity can really be satisfied when you practice the three steps of the Platinum Rule:

  1. Ask
  2. Listen
  3. Then, and only then, take customized action.

Stay Inspired!



Mary Pat Knight, CEO of Leaders Inspired, is a Transformation Strategist, Speaker, Facilitator, and Coach committed to leadership and emotional intelligence in the workplace. She is known for cutting through corporate drama to create laser focus for powerful business and personal results for her clients. 

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