I broke the Golden Rule and I like it!


Gathered in the auditorium of a large multinational company, all of the staff and management of the company are gathered for their quarterly Town Hall.


Everyone in the hall is excitedly waiting for news and updates from the CEO; everyone except for Franck.


Susan and Franck are up for a well-deserved recognition for all of the work they have been doing this quarter to move the company forward in its vision. They are to be honoured for their innovation, dedication, and results.


They are both brought up on the stage, to be presented their award by the Chairman in front of a room full of their proud (and maybe jealous) colleagues clapping, hooting and cheering loudly. Before too long the murmuring and then chanting starts to spread around the crowded room. Starting softly and then rumbling and crescendoing louder and louder - “speech, speech, speech”.


Sounds like an amazing moment for most people. But, pause a moment.


What if I told you that Susan is an extreme extrovert and loves nothing more than the spotlight; attention; and adoration of her teammates.


What if I told you Franck is a deeply introverted person who, whilst still deeply proud of his achievements, would rather be anywhere else than here at this very moment.


This is his worst nightmare.


Public speaking is his greatest fear; he is starting to physically shake; and looking for the nearest rock to crawl under.


For Susan, it is mission accomplished. She deserves to be rewarded and could not be happier. Her smile is beaming from ear to ear; she is cherishing every moment; and wants it to go on forever.


For Franck, we have a big problem. A moment of pride has turned into thoughts of “what did I do to deserve this?”; “how do I get out of here?” and how do I prevent this from ever happening again?”


Breaking the Golden Rule

For many years, in leadership training and in everyday life, people have been taught “The Golden Rule”:

“Treat others the way you want to be treated”

However, every single person on this planet is different in some way and that is a beautiful thing. We are different in our backgrounds, experiences, and genetic make up. We are also very different in terms of personal motivators; stressors; and preferences.


I trust that our story above about Susan and Franck is illustration enough that this approach is very limiting. There are circumstances where this might apply. For example, it could be the “default” for when you do not know someone too well.


However, I strongly encourage you to move pass “The Golden Rule” as quickly as possible and transition to “The Platinum Rule”.

The Platinum Rule

The Platinum Rule trumps The Golden Rule in most circumstances:

“Treat others the way THEY want to be treated”.

This means that you need to truly take the time to get to know your team.

  1. What are their likes and dislikes?

  2. What are their working style preferences?

  3. How do they like to be managed?

  4. How do they like to receive feedback and constructive criticism?

  5. How do they like to be rewarded?

  6. What motivates them?

  7. What stresses them out?

This is perhaps the most important thing a team leader can do to lift their ability to inspire their team. People truly appreciate when someone takes a genuine interest in them and how they like to work.


In case you are wondering, "but how do I know what they like?" Simple, just ask them. You may get a nervous and timid response in the first instance, but as they relax most people will open up to you.

Give them a psychologically safe environment to do so, and they will soon be very happy to share with you their thoughts; likes; and dislikes.


In doing so you will also be building trust and you will make them feel like they matter; like they are valued; and that they are important to you.

"make them feel like they matter" - Lisa Partridge

Taking the time to get to know your staff in this way will build a deep connection. Remembering the things that they share with you will enable you to tailor the way you communicate with them; and how you reward and recognise them.


To circle back to our story. Franck may have preferred a nice dinner; a book; or even the day off rather than to stand on that stage.


For some staff, a simple gesture like a handwritten note personally written by you maybe even more impactful than an expensive gift.


In summary, I ask you to do some self reflection. How well do you know your team? Do you what truly motivates them? Are the rewards and recognition you are providing to them hitting the mark? Or having the opposite effect.



Mick Spiers

Experienced executive leader; mentor; and founder of The Leadership Project

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