The Platinum Rule – Why Leaders Need to Know It.

By Monica Affleck
While many of us are familiar with the Golden Rule—to treat others as you would like to be treated—there is another rule which also speaks to how we should treat one another. It is called the Platinum Rule and it says: treat others as they would like to be treated. You may have noticed the subtle shift from you to they.

It makes sense to treat others according to what they value and find meaningful, doesn’t it? Yet, the Platinum Rule is not as widely known as the Golden Rule. It is also harder to practice as it is not about us, it is about the other person. Often, we just assume that others like or dislike the same things we do. We base what bothers us or what we prefer on our own background and experiences and fail to take into consideration that others have different values and priorities. This is particularly poignant in our increasingly diverse companies where we work with colleagues from different backgrounds and serve the needs of a diverse customer base.

The Platinum Rule is at the heart of leadership. Effective leaders help build the confidence and self-esteem of those they lead. Caring about people and showing that their unique skills and contributions are valued is what good leaders do. Employees who feel valued for who they are and what they bring, are engaged in their work and committed to the organization. Research tells us that engaged employees are key contributors to business success, not just for the next quarterly profit but long-term.

While the rule itself is an easy concept to understand, the challenge lies with putting it into action.

4 Key Principles of the Platinum Rule:

Show empathy
Become other-focused. Empathy means being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand the situation from their perspective. It is about understanding and relating to someone else’s feelings and using that understanding to inform your actions. How empathic are you? Take the quiz!

Be curious
Show genuine interest in different people and cultures. Be courageous and venture out to talk to someone outside of your social circle. Consider other people’s worldviews, take an interest in their thoughts and opinions. Widen your horizon. Often you will find that you share more commonalities than differences with another person. Keep an open mind and allow yourself to embrace different ways of doing and being.

Examine your biases
We all have unconscious bias and make assumptions about others; that is in our human nature. Bias affects everything we do. How we see others, and how we behave towards them. When we stereotype groups of people into certain traits and behaviours, we don’t get to really know them and appreciate their individuality.

How to challenge your unconscious bias: Examine your beliefs about others. What are they based on? Your upbringing, your social environment, your cultural traditions, the media? Do these beliefs still hold true today? Continue to grow your understanding of others, increase your self-awareness, reframe issues so that you can look at them from a different perspective. Use inclusive language and check your thinking with someone else.

Listen actively
Deep listening is powerful. To truly understand someone, we need to listen with all our senses. It can be difficult to pay attention in a fast-paced world where we get easily distracted and often tune out to what is happening in the moment. Make a point of being present to the other person. Deeply listen to what is being said (or not being said), pay attention to body language (yours and the other person’s), clarify to make sure you really understand, ask questions, summarize, respond thoughtfully.

Consider this

  • How would your life be different if the principles of the Platinum Rule guided your encounter with others?
  • How would your relationships at work be different?
  • How would you be different with your family and friends?

In practicing the Platinum Rule, you build bridges with others. No other human being is like you, so take the time to truly get to know others.

Finally, applying the Platinum Rule does not mean that you have to change your personality. It simply means that you take the time to understand what motivates another person. As George Bernard Shaw pointed out: “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.”

As a Soutlterra HR and leadership development consultant with over 15 years experience providing strategic and hands-on HR services to organizations in a variety of industries, Monica Affleck, CPHR specializes in: employee engagement, performance management, leadership development, recruitment and retention, coaching and diversity and inclusion. With a Master of Arts in Business Leadership, she is an instructor in the Continuing Education Department at the University of the Fraser Valley, teaching courses in the Human Resource Management and Management Skills for Supervisors programs.

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