Several friends and I were having dinner when one of the group, asked for advice on motivating employees. One of the friends said, “Well, for starters, follow the golden rule, you know, treat others how you want to be treated.” Another friend and I immediately shouted no. We explained that people don’t always want treated how you want treated. They want to be treated how they want to be treated. That’s much more difficult. That’s the platinum rule.

More than 30 years ago, I realized that the people I managed weren’t me. They didn’t all think or communicate like me. They weren’t always motivated by what motivated me.

It took me longer than I want to admit for me to see the light. It should have been easy for me to see. My early career was in sales. I worked with people who were highly money motivated. However, I wasn’t. I wanted to win, receive recognition, and be an integral part of a team. Managers seldom understood this. Most of the people who managed me were money motivated, so they expected me to be as well. It puzzled and confused them when a financial incentive didn’t inspire me.

I remember conducting a sales meeting where I recognized a few top performers for their contributions to the team’s success. After the meeting, one of the teammates I had recognized asked if we could speak. We went to my office. He thanked me for the recognition and then asked to please never do that in a meeting again. It embarrassed him. He didn’t like the attention. He suggested a private chat or a thank you card would be more to his liking. I thanked him for his candor and told him, of course. He wasn’t me.

Steps to the Platinum Rule

Clear your head 

You’ve heard the golden rule most of your life. There’s some version of it in nearly every religion. We’ve been brain-washed to believe what works for us works for everyone. It doesn’t.

“We all grow up learning about the simplicity and power of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want done to you. It’s a splendid concept except for one thing: Everyone is different, and the truth is that in many cases what you’d want done to you is different from what your partner, employee, customer, investor, wife, or child would want done to him or her.” – Dave Kerpen author of How the Platinum Rule Trumps the Golden Rule Every Time

Appreciate that not everyone is you

I know I said this already, but it needs repeating because believing others are the same as you sneaks up on you. For example, you’re frustrated when someone doesn’t answer an email, and then you learn they only check their email twice a day. Or you don’t understand how someone doesn’t know how long an activity will take until you realize they don’t have your sense of time. Or you learn by doing and expect everyone to learn the same. Keep the Platinum rule in focus.

Seek understanding

It’s easy to assume everyone wants what you want—nothing to it. However, to follow the Platinum Rule takes work. You must learn what other’s want. So, how do you do that? You ask. You ask individuals, check with teams, conduct surveys, and then you do it again.

Know that motivators evolve

So, you sat down with a direct report and had a great conversation about what motivates them, what they want—their Platinum rule. But here’s the catch, it changes. For example, a single employee who marries most likely will develop new needs and wants, and then if they have children, it probably change again. If you’re going to motivate your direct reports, you must keep learning what motivates them.

The Golden Rule is tarnished 

The Golden Rule is tarnished. It’s fool’s gold. It not only doesn’t work; it causes disruption, animosity, and resentment. It’s time to move past a philosophy that has crippled our society for more than 2000 years. It’s time for the Platinum era. Are you ready?

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.