The Golden Rule Is Not Enough

The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. – falls short, if you want to be a great colleague, manager, or friend who brings out the best in others.

For example, I recently helped an executive (“Anne”) understand that just because she thrives when granted autonomy and flexibility to do her work, she cannot assume that the same thing works for her team members. She now realizes that employees who want more guidance and feedback are not necessarily “high maintenance,” but rather, simply value structure and predictability over autonomy and flexibility, and she has adjusted her management style accordingly. Anne also discovered that her own work style is embedded with needs and wants that others accommodate to bring out her best. The learning has been a win/win: less frustration for her, and her team performs better and experiences more job satisfaction.

Such insights around personal differences are at the heart of many executive coaching engagements. The Myers-Briggs Personality Type assessment (MBTI) is my favorite source of simple, non-judgmental language that describes some of the fundamental personality differences that we embody. With or without the MBTI tool, the key is to understand that each of your preferences – such as Anne’s preference for flexibility – are part of a much broader spectrum of equally valid ones that others might hold – such as her teammates’ preference for predictability. This insight will help you and your organization benefit from the complementary approaches and contributions of others and reduce the likelihood of frustrating misunderstandings.

Here are other common biases and disconnects that are driven by innate preferences and may help you understand challenging relationships:

• Just because you love to brainstorm in unstructured (perhaps noisy) energetic groups, does not mean your colleague does his best thinking that way.

• And even if you naturally think in big concepts and broad possibilities, your manager may prefer to start with the details and connect the dots more deliberatively.

• And for a more personal example … You may prefer to plan and structure your vacation time, while your life partner enjoys a more spontaneous approach.

Do you see any opportunities to up your collaborative game and “do unto others as they would prefer you do unto them”?