Forget the ‘Golden Rule’…To Be a Better Manager

Forget the ‘Golden Rule’…To Be a Better Manager

Most of us have grown up with the encouragement to follow the ‘Golden Rule’ as a way to get along with others and be successful. The commonly ascribed idea of the Golden Rule is that we should treat others as we would like them to treat us. This is no doubt an important and relevant ‘rule’ to follow as we strive to make our way in the world.

Unfortunately, like most short-hand ‘tips’ and ‘rules’ for success, the Golden Rule is often over-generalized and misapplied. I think that this is especially true for company leaders and managers who, by my definition, are tasked with achieving things through other people.

As a manager development coach and executive leadership consultant, I have spent many hours across 20+ years in one-on-one conversations with both seasoned executive-level managers and people just emerging as key managers in a company. A core focus in these coaching conversations often entails helping the manager refine his or her ‘signature’ as a manager and company leader. That is, helping them bring into the light those beliefs, ambitions, values, and ‘rules’ that influence or guide their approach to their role, and then subsequently discern which ones enable their effectiveness and which ones hamper it.

Many times I hear managers citing the Golden Rule as their basis for dealing with people in their charge. They talk about striving to show respect to people in ways that they would find respectful. They talk about striving to be considerate of others in a manner that they themselves would experience as considerate. And so on. Some of these managers possess not only this noble intention but also the requisite behavioral skills to engender this ‘ethic of reciprocity’ between themselves and those working for them. Other managers, however, while also ascribing to this intention, actually have very little or no sense of how their behavior misaligns with the expression of this intention. The consequences of such often result in the creation of a very confusing and unrewarding work environment as well as less than optimal work outcomes for all concerned.

To be a good manager, one clearly needs to start by embracing the Golden Rule and learning how to align one’s behavior with the intention he or she is striving to convey.  It requires sound self-reflection and an in-depth examination of what ‘works for you’. By knowing what makes you feel good, what motivates you, and what gives meaning to your work, etc., you can then strive to do the same for others.

However, I have found that to be a better (great) manager, one needs to go beyond the Golden Rule and embrace the Platinum Rule.  While I cannot lay claim to having coined the term, I do want to tout what the term, in this context, denotes: Treat people, not as you want to be treated, but rather as they want to be treated. Embracing the Platinum Rule requires the ability and the willingness to shift focus away from oneself to a focus on others, and the differences among people. While knowing what motivates and drives you helps you to provide the same for others, knowing what motivates and drives them enables you to do the things that are more specifically meaningful and motivating to each of them. Doing this well is more likely to incite their energy and commitment for achieving what their work agenda requires of them than striving to support them in ways that are important to you.

For example, if a manager is insightful enough to know that when Employee A knows he is ‘on track’ and doing the right things he feels more empowered to do them as well as he can, the manager might provide more clarity and direction to Employee A than to Employee B, whom he knows feels more empowered to do her best work when guided by broader, less specific, directives.  This manager understands that, for her, getting less direction means that he trusts her ability to figure out what she needs to do to advance the work agenda, and as such energizes her to do her work well.

A Reginald Smythe’s Andy Capp comic strip from years past (Los Angeles Times, 26 July 1987) offers a simple illustration of the Platinum Rule.  In the comic strip, Andy flirts with a woman at the other end of the bar. His male drinking partner says, “You’re wasting your time, Andy – if only you could see y’self as others see you” to which Andy replies, “What’s that got to do with it?”.  Turning to the woman, Andy says, “You’re a real beauty, miss – are you a model?” to which she replies, “No, but people have often said that I should be.” and invites Andy down for a drink. As he abandons his male drinking partner to join the woman, Andy remarks, “You’ve got a lot to learn, Charlie. It’s all about seeing others as they see themselves.”

Make no mistake, being able to ‘see yourself as others see you’ is critically important to being an effective manager and team player. It is this ‘gift’ of self-awareness that when sufficiently honed can help you manage yourself in ways that enable others to accurately see the intentions behind your behavior. Do this well and those around you will come to see you as being trustworthy and as having integrity, two essential elements for effective leadership.

However, equally important to effectively leading and managing is the ability to see others as they see themselves.  Knowing what drives and motives others to do their best work, and styling your approach to leading and managing them to suite their individual and different needs will elevate the work performance of your group, and position you to be a better (great) manager.

 

Quotes Execs Use When Mentoring

From one of our recent executive leadership coaching groups came a number of sayings or quotes that participants identified as reflecting their ‘message’ to the more junior managers whom they were mentoring. They are listed here in no particular order as ‘Set 1’. Set 2 and 3 will follow as subsequent blog entries. Perhaps one or more of them resonate for you. If so, we would love to know which one(s)…email us at knick@consultks.com.

a.  “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”  Unknown
b.  “People work for money but they dies for a cause.”  Unknown
c.  “If you cannot manage it, do not measure it.”  Unknown
d.  “A real leader faces the music even when he doesn’t like the tune.” – Arnold H. Glassgow
e.  “Be great in little things.” – St. Francis Xavier
f.  “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”  Winston Churchill
g. “To make any kind of progress, we need to imagine a different reality and believe it’s possible.” –Tali Sharot
h. “The more you DO, the more you CAN DO.” Indira Gandhi
i.  “Failure is often not fatal; but the failure to change and adapt most certainly is.”  Unknown
j.  “A man [or woman] cannot learn what he [or she] thinks he or [she] already knows.” Epictetus

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 11.

Q 11:  How critical (or essential) is it that an executive coach be someone from ‘outside’ the organization versus someone from ‘inside’ the organization?  Why?

“I thought this was a trick question…so I’ll answer it very clearly…always outside. If you are inside an organization, you have a contaminated perception because you are part of that context. The value of the outside coach is that he or she has clearer vision and is better able to say the unsay-able.”

“I think it should be someone from the outside because of the neutrality the person would bring. It would have to be a pretty large organization for it to be someone from the inside.”

“Although it’s harder to be objective the longer you (the outside coach) are involved with a particular institution, there is something potentially valuable about the outside coach having experienced a lot of other companies, organizations, and institutions…like your perspective on the issues and traits in common. While they can all still be fairly distinct, they are probably not unique.”

“You (the outside coach) don’t have a stake in the outcome. If the organization is not doing well, you are not responsible for making it better. You are there to help the people there make it better. And that’s a very important distinction.”

“There is also the issue of confidentiality. I do think it is easier to keep some level of confidentiality if it’s an outside person.”

“I do think that sometimes chief executives need to rely on wisdom from outside because there isn’t always a lot of objective wisdom inside the organization at every moment. When you are in it, you very often can’t see it…objectively, or otherwise…also, there are blind-spots…lots of them for lots of reasons, and inside people no matter how well intended can’t see them either.”

“If the person is inside, eventually that person becomes imbrued with the same way of thinking about things as the people they’re trying to be helpful to. So I am biased toward someone from the outside, who theoretically brings a fresh, uninfected perspective with a capacity to be less attached to a particular outcome…a managed objectivity, so to speak.”

 

 

 

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 10.

Q 10:  How important (or relevant) is it that an executive coach be trained in business? …in psychology? …in human resources? …in some other discipline?  Why?

“I think that executive coaches could be trained in any number of things, but they need to have a solid theoretical framework for and an interest in the psychology of organizations and the psychology of people.”

“Anyone who has a theoretically sound framework for understanding human beings in relationship could potentially offer something useful because business organizations are social systems with a business agenda.

“I think that it is very difficult for most human resources people to have a full picture; they mostly get to view only a very thin slice of an organization. That would hamper them as executive coaches. They could coach around specific issues, though, like handling a problem employee.”

“I think the training should be in psychology, sociology, anthropology, OD…those disciplines. I can even imagine that if you were well trained in theology and clergy, you could probably figure out how to do EC within reason, provided you were familiar with business-type organizations.”

“Behavioral science is where the foundations need to be because this is about human beings and social systems, not about business per se. But they need to understand what a business organization is about, and the demands on the business organization leadership.”

“If they understand human development and how people evolve and adapt as conditions change they’d be in a good place for this type of work. I don’t think an MBA helps you much with this stuff.”

“There are enough people in every industry that have been trained up the whah-zoo on the specific aspects of a business or industry…full of answers for both good questions and bad questions. But EC is not about delivering answers…it’s about figuring out what are the right questions, and how do they get asked, and of whom. And it’s about how do we best engage in dialogue around those questions. That’s the mindset needed for this kind of work for EC to be most helpful.”.

“Being trained in people dynamics is good, but if you only see the interactional, people-side of an issue, you may miss the possibility that the more salient and more important issue is the poorly conceived or dysfunctional organizational design…the structure people are working in may need fixing.”

“The professional discipline matters, but so does having an understanding of real world issues. I can tell you about people who have PhDs that still don’t understand how to change a flat tire. The executive coach should have his or her own track record of experience in a real-world environment.”

“One’s formal training is a lesser issue, in my view. The perspective the coach has, his or her philosophical make-up, and the moral and social skills of that person are the more important issues. Relative to being trained in business…one needs to have exposure or understanding, not of a particular industry, but of what the business environment is like.”

Next K&S: Leadership Alchemy blog entry Q 11:  How critical (or essential) is it that an executive coach be someone from ‘outside’ the organization versus someone from ‘inside’ the organization?  Why?

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 9.

Q 9:  What parameters or conditions need to be considered when executives from the same team are engaged in executive coaching?

“I don’t think you can take a standard formula and apply it to each person. Each person is going to need their own strategy and structure around which to be engaged in EC. Different things will work for different people; one size will not fit all.”

“The degree of respect, the degree of trust, the degree of fellowship among members of the group will influence people’s readiness and willingness to participate in EC.”

“The President should not be inquiring about them; like asking the coach, “What did they say”, or asking them how come they are not meeting with you (the coach) more regularly.”

“There needs to be a non-defensive attitude by the CEO. Not everyone is going to be pleased by everything the CEO does. This may come out in their coaching sessions. The CEO can’t give undue concern to this.”

“The CEO has to trust the process, trust the executive coach, and make it easy and OK for people to participate (in EC), or perhaps to not participate.”

“Define the roles and the process up front. I think they are different for a coaching engagement with an individual versus a team. Just think of the complexity involved regarding confidentiality when engaging a team…it is immense. So, the rules have to be different and clearly explained up front.”

“I think as the senior person who understands and values the EC process, I need to make sure that people don’t somehow feel unfairly punished if they have chosen not to engage in EC. Everyone grows and moves at their own pace…I have to help them find something to help move them developmentally forward that fits where they are at the moment.”

Next K&S: Leadership Alchemy blog entry Q 10:  How important (or relevant) is it that an executive coach be trained in business? …in psychology? …in human resources? …in some other discipline?  Why?

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 8.

Q 8:  How important (or useful) is it for all members of an executive team to be simultaneously engaged in executive coaching?  Why? 

“If you have some members of an executive team who don’t want to participate, or are unwilling to participate, then I’m not sure it’s worth forcing them…they’ll just go through the motions and nothing worthwhile will happen.”

“I think that it tells you something about your team members to the extent they are not willing to engage with an executive coach.”

“One of the challenges that hadn’t occurred to me before is how difficult it must be to coach someone in isolation, divorced from first-hand knowledge of the context the person is in, and seeing the rest of the organization and the peers and colleagues and subordinates and superiors, and so on solely through the eyes of that individual.”

I would think that the hardest thing to pull off in a coaching context is where a coach ‘parachutes’ into an issue and is dealing with one individual executive and has to learn about and sort through the biases, the blinkers, the blind-spots, and the prelims the individual is seeing with. I have to wonder given the impediments and inhibitions that that puts on effectiveness, whether that is even ever worth doing…which is a thought that hadn’t occurred to me before.”

Next K&S: Leadership Alchemy blog entry Q 9:  What parameters or conditions need to be considered when executives from the same team are engaged in executive coaching?

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 7.

Q 7:  What should the nature and extent of feedback to the organization be when executives are engaged in executive coaching?

“I think there needs to be some way of structuring feedback to the organization so that it doesn’t become personal or awkward for people, and still protects the confidentiality of any uncensored discussion the coach had with people.”

“I do think that coaches have some responsibility to the organization to report back. If we’re having an organizational issue that we are trying to solve, and some senior managers are not working in concert with our effort…that is, they are not representing the president’s message or position the right way, we ought to know that…that’s what we are paying for.”

“I think there needs to be a balance between what managers think they can do in an autonomous way and what they need to do to reach our company goals or to go in the direction that the President wants. If that is out of balance, then the president needs to know that. Hence, there needs to be some channel of appropriate and respectful feedback about what is perceived or thought about elsewhere in the organization.”

“Who invited the coach to the table? If it was the Board, then the coach needs to say up front to the Board that the engagement is between the executive and the coach, and then try to define the scope and limits of feedback to them up front about the executive…and the executive needs to know what the parameters and expectations are before engaging with the coach.”

“The coach has to be very skilled and alert so to avoid being trapped in the middle and/or manipulated into being a messenger between parties, especially when it’s the Board and the CEO. That’s why I think this whole notion of executive coaching, for me, requires very talented and uniquely prepared individuals.  Everybody is putting it on their resume now, and I’m going, “Wait a minute, this is a lot harder and more complicated than you think.”

Next K&S: Leadership Alchemy blog entry Q 8:  How important (or useful) is it for all members of an executive team to be simultaneously engaged in executive coaching?  Why? 

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 6.

Q 6:  What is the nature and scope of confidentiality in an executive coaching engagement?

“Confidentiality is the foundation upon which an executive coaching relationship is based. Without confidentiality, the whole process does not work…it falls apart.”

“Confidentiality has to be at the absolute highest level and you (the coach) really only get one shot at that. If at any point I tell you something and somehow it leaks out and I find out, we’re done…absolutely done…you don’t get a second chance. And you will never be back to where you were.”

“Confidentiality means that the executive coach should not be carrying messages for anyone up or down the organization…not from the CEO and not to the CEO. The coach is not a communication link.”

“There are, I think, special circumstances when the coach should be released from confidentiality. I’m sure that your own professional psychology association has a Code of Ethics that contain guidelines about honoring, preserving, and breaching confidentiality. That’s part of why I trust someone with your background in this type of work.”

Next K&S: Leadership Alchemy blog entry Q 7:  What should the nature and extent of feedback to the organization be when executives are engaged in executive coaching?

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 5.

Q 5:  What are 2-3 ‘pitfalls’ that executives should keep in mind when considering whether or not to participate in an executive coaching relationship?

“That the client isn’t me. The client is the company and its agenda. The executive coach is here to help me serve that agenda in the role I have to the best of my God-given ability.”

“They should remember that the executive coach is not an answer person, or a friend, and doesn’t solve problems. The executive coach is not Dear Abby…the executive needs to figure out how to solve the problem him or herself.”

“Don’t just assume that the caliber of available coaches is always good. There are a lot of people calling themselves executive coaches who are really unfit professionally, morally, and ethically to do this work. The coach is in a very powerful role; he or she needs to have their own internal guidance system so that they don’t cross the line…and it is a very thin line between good and bad coaching.”

Next K&S: Leadership Alchemy blog entry: Q 6:  What is the nature and scope of confidentiality in an executive coaching engagement?

Executive Coaching from the Executive’s Perspective

Not long ago I invited several CEOs and Presidents to share what executive coaching is as they experience it and define it. To continue this Series, here are their thoughts and commentary to Question 4.

Q 4:  For you, what has been most useful (or valuable) from executive coaching?

“When coaching is done successfully, my view is more robust and encompassing, what becomes important shifts, and my capacity for making sense of complex, ambiguous affairs expands.  Then my choices and decisions are better, and the right actions follow.”

“Coaching helped me to see beyond myself and what I was doing…and that is the most important thing to me about being a good leader…to understand that it is not all about ‘you’.”

“Coaching helps me to go beyond what I think I know, and that’s really important because that enables me to be more considered in my work as the leader of this organization.”

“The process of talking out loud offered the opportunity for reflection; you get to hear your own voice in a fuller dimension. In addition to hearing the coach’s voice, I could hear myself better.”

“Being reminded that I was the one responsible…and being reminded of what I was responsible for. It was kind of like being held accountable, but without the negative judgment of a boss.”

“Executive coaching helped my work as President become more meaningful to me and to the organization in the sense that it (my work) made a greater difference.”

“Executive coaching helped me check my perceptions and alter my judgments about how I viewed issues. Then I had the choice to soften or modify my position, or to change my approach.”

“I think that in many organizations, people don’t really talk to each another…they just move through their day. When they do talk, it is simply a transaction. Executive coaching gives people a chance to really talk about what they think and feel relative to the work they do and the meaning of it, it certainly did that for me.”

“Sometimes things you said would not immediately affect the way I was thinking about something. Sometimes I even disagreed with what you said. However, over time, rolling around in my mind was your perspective, your point of view, your comments, and eventually I got around to looking at the issue differently. Many times it even happened that I then changed my view or changed what I was initially going to do. I found that most helpful, as I think back to our work together.”

“Executive coaching helped me sort out my own reactions to things so that I’d make a more measured and informed response rather than an impulsive or emotional one. I then could say what needed saying in a way that wasn’t a personal attack on someone because I was using my role responsibilities in the organization as my anchor, not my personal feelings about the issue or the person.”

Next K&S: Leadership Alchemy blog entry: Q 5:  What are 2-3 ‘pitfalls’ that executives should keep in mind when considering whether or not to participate in an executive coaching relationship?