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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

When the Golden Rule Fails, Try the Platinum Rule

When the Golden Rule Fails, Try the Platinum Rule

The idea that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” dates back at least to Confucianism (551 BC) and has precedents in nearly every religion.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Treat people with the same kindness and respect that you would want to be treated with yourself… and don’t do things to people that you wouldn’t want them to do to you.

Simple and true, this Golden Rule is one of those kindergarten lessons that guides us to interact better with others. 

Except when it doesn’t work.

The Golden Rule Fails When Coaching and Developing Others

Brilliant in concept, the Golden Rule is completely dysfunctional in practice because everybody is different. What feels good to one doesn’t feel good to another; so rather than creating fairness, it often causes conflict.

Here's an example.

  • Imagine a highly competitive, contest-loving sales manager who is responsible for coaching a relationship-driven, results-driven seller who just doesn’t see the world through competitive eyes.

  • Rather than measuring himself against others, this seller is solely driven by the opportunity to provide top-notch service for his customer and help them get results. The more the manager promotes contests and tougher competitions, determined to motivate the seller in the way they would want to be motivated, the more the seller feels misunderstood and frustrated with the distractions that get in the way of serving customers.

  • In an attempt to motivate and develop the seller, this manager, loyally practicing the Golden Rule, finds themselves unknowingly doing a disservice to not only themself, but to the organization and clients as well. The manager needs to stop treating the seller in the way they would want to be treated and find a better way!

Coaching Sales Talent eBook

Follow the Platinum Rule

The Platinum Rule says that instead of treating people the way you want to be treated, you must understand what makes them tick and treat them the way they want to be treated.

The good news is, that with a little bit of legwork, it’s pretty easy to do. You just need to fully understand two things:

1. Understand Their Natural Abilities

Start by consistently using a validated talent assessment instrument that measures the intensities of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

You'll want to choose an assessment that accurately predicts success before you hire. But in order to follow the Platinum Rule, you also need that talent assessment to provide you with detailed information on their strengths and weaknesses, so you know exactly what you are working with and how they need to be managed.

Such an assessment allows you to ask them to do it their way, not your way. And their way will work better for them.

2. Understand What They Need From You

Our clients use an instrument that guides them through a list of questions including, “Do you like being given a clear plan to follow, or do you prefer to do your own planning?”

If you don't have access to our questionnaire, you can create your own list of questions that will help you uncover how your salespeople want to be recognized, corrected, motivated, and challenged.

Reach Beyond the Golden Rule to Something More Valuable

Following the Platinum Rule and this two-step process, our super-competitive fictional manager will discover their seller’s strengths and weaknesses and fully understand their coaching preferences.

They'll know the answers to questions like “What motivates you to achieve goals?” and “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important are contests to you?” which will allow them to motivate the seller in the way that they need to be motivated.

You can increase your effectiveness in developing others right away by knowing what they need from you.

Press the hot buttons—the buttons that are, for that person, connected! Treat people how they want to be treated and you'll find that you use less energy and achieve greater results. The people you manage will also be happier and more productive. You can’t beat that.

Talent Insight

Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2014 and has since been updated.

Topics: sales talent