Treat others the way they want to be treated – not how you want to be treated
If you’re in a position where you need to influence the decisions and actions of staff, suppliers or customers, then you may have noticed that ‘just being yourself’ doesn’t work that well for everyone. While you may have a handful of people that are influenced by your approach, you’ll also have a handful of people who are in complete opposition. And it’s not that they disagree with your ideas but more with how you’ve delivered them – by treating them the way YOU want to be treated.
The concept of treating others the way you would want to be treated is used regularly in the playground and classroom, where teachers encourage students to ‘play nice’. It’s also used at home where parents encourage their children to expand their perspective beyond themselves and consider others. I remember hearing “Shelley you wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you, so don’t do it to them” and I got it – I adjusted my behaviour and restored calm. For kids, I absolutely think this approach is relevant – they don’t have the same frame of reference or experience as adults do, so it’s a great way for them to start relating to others.
For adults however, particularly in today’s workplace where hierarchies are disappearing and roles are becoming more autonomous, we need to approach things differently. You see, by treating me the way YOU want to be treated assumes we are the same…and…we’re not!
We might appear to be similar, but we are all very different – you might drink your coffee black while I like my tea with milk! We are who we are today because of so many variables: the house we grew up in; our siblings (or lack of); how our parents raised us; the values they instilled; the impact of our teachers; the influence of our friends; our experiences and what we made them mean; and, so so many other things.
I see treating others the way YOU want to be treated as a classic cookie cutter approach taken by lazy communicators – who, often deny they’re the problem and struggle to effect change without a great deal of effort and frustration along the way.
Take for example the leader who removes all ability to make decisions and tells their staff what to do, either because they like being told what to do themselves or because they believe their way is best. Sure, some staff might be ok with the approach but those who don’t like being told what to do (which would be the majority) will take it personally. A study conducted by Armin Falk and Michael Kosfeld, found that “when asked for their emotional perception of control, most agents who react negatively say that they perceive the controlling decision as a signal of distrust and a limitation of their choice autonomy”.
I worked with a business owner a few years ago who believed that to succeed he needed to get his staff to do what he did, in the way he did it. In effect he was expecting his team to replicate him and attempted to control their every action. He would regularly ‘tell’ his staff what to do and each time they nodded absently and agreed. Over a period of six years with no real improvements or growth in his business, and feeling burnt out, he knew he needed to do something differently so signed up for leadership coaching.
Over a number of months, we explored the concept of treating people the way THEY want to be treated and, while he was sceptical about the effectiveness of this new approach, he agreed to give it a go. Within six months the performance of his staff and overall business had almost doubled and his team were more engaged than ever. He gave prescriptive advice to those who needed it and let those, who preferred more freedom, the ability to make their own decisions and work autonomously.
He put the cookie cutter back in the drawer and focused on adapting his style to suit each member of his team. He realised that when we can treat the people around us the way THEY want to be treated everything becomes easier and we move from a position of control to one of influence. People feel heard, valued, respected and appreciated. And when that happens, businesses thrive!
Written by Shelley Flett.
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