The Platinum Rule

retainyourbestThe Platinum Rule, “Do unto others as they would like done unto them,” is different from the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” It may end up being the same, but it is worth remembering that in many cases others have very different needs than your own.

A number of years ago when my children were young, I was buying a new car. I had specific needs, including four doors, good gas mileage, and air conditioning. At the dealership, a young salesman approached me and I asked to look at a specific model, which he showed me. All good so far, but then the golden rule took over and customer satisfaction broke down. He started to describe the features of the car that he valued, for example the 6 speakers for perfect sound – not a feature I cared about. He described specifics of the engine, all to do with fast acceleration – again not something I cared about. Ultimately, I didn’t buy a car from that young man – he didn’t care about me. He hadn’t captured my attention long enough to retain me. I was not a satisfied customer.

Today, internal customer satisfaction, the retention of good people is more critical than ever. For people to care about an organization they need to know how much the organization cares about them. As the representative of your company to your direct team and others within the organization, spending time finding out what people need is an important part of your role. The worst mistake a leader can make is assuming they understand, without spending the proper time to find out. An article in The Harvard Business Review (HBR) May 2010 listed six mistakes companies make in retention of their brightest and the best. These are potential problems to consider:

  1. Assuming that high potentials are highly engaged.
    • If you are ever surprised by somebody leaving your organization then you may not have spent enough time with them to know what they needed to be engaged. The platinum rule was not in play, and you are potentially paying for attendance and not performance.
  2. Equating current high performance to future potential.
    • Just because someone is performing well at one level does not guarantee that they can deliver results on much bigger jobs. In fact, the article states 70% of current high performers lack critical attributes such as ability, engagement, and aspiration, that are essential to success in future roles.
  3. Delegating the management of top performers.
    • Senior leaders should be taking an active interest in the development of future leaders. It is important to share the management of high performers among senior leaders and also potentially with external coaches.
  4. Shielding rising stars from early derailment.
    • The article states that “true leadership development happens under conditions of real stress.” It is important to provide individuals with a challenge early in their career and support them through the process. This will allow the organization to test emerging talent. Instead, what often happens is that skills are not tested, and the pool of talent for senior roles is shallow and weak, creating a void in the organization’s development.
  5. Expecting star employees to share the pain.
    • In bad times leaders of organizations often feel that everyone should embrace austerity measures such as bonus cuts or wage freezes. However, the rising stars often don’t agree, especially those who are putting in extra effort and research has shown that rising stars put in up to 20% more effort. This is another area where the platinum rule is not in play, and data shows a significant drop in the intent to stay scores.
  6. Failing to link your stars to your corporate strategy.
    • Putting a freeze on communicating strategy to future leaders may have a serious effect on retention. Rising stars are more engaged when they believe in the management and corporate strategy.

As a leader, what are you doing to serve your internal customers to ensure their satisfaction? Apply this thinking not only to the potential future leaders, consider everyone. To quote the HBR article, “even employees who haven’t been dubbed high potential work harder in a place where good things happen to those who deserve them.” Incorporate the platinum rule into your organization and treat people as they would like to be treated.

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July 1, 2010

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