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Maximizing Your Adaptability

September 22, 2010
Tony Alessandra
Tony Alessandra: Gone Platinum

You remember The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Well, that’s a wonderful axiom, as far as it goes. But not everybody wants to be treated the same way you do!

I think the real intent of the Golden Rule is to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Hence, I’ve come up with what I think is a newer, more sensitive version of The Golden Rule-or what I call The Platinum Rule:

“Do unto others as THEY’D like done unto them.”

The Platinum Rule, distilled to its essence, equates to respect for others. It’s an attempt to break down the them-versus-us mentality and concentrate on the “us.” It’s a potent tool for helping build rapport by meeting the other person’s needs and your own.

In fact, along with behavioral scientist Dr. Michael J. O’Connor, I wrote a book that examined the personality styles much more deeply. The Platinum Rule (Warner Books, 1996) describes four core behavioral, or personality, types:

  • Directors are forceful, take-charge people. Their impatience-and sometimes their insensitivity-may make you wince. Driven by an inner need to get results, they’re more concerned with outcomes than egos.
  • The friendly, enthusiastic Socializers are fast-paced people who thrive on admiration, acknowledgment, and applause. They love to talk, and while strong on fresh concepts, they’re usually weak on execution.
  • Relaters are the teddy bears of the human zoo. Rather easygoing, people-oriented, and slow-paced, Relaters tend to drag their feet when it comes to change, preferring routine ways of doing things.
  • Thinkers are results-oriented problem solvers. They seek results in a quiet, low-key way. Thinkers are analytical, persistent, independent, and well organized, but often seen as aloof, picky, and critical.

Here are some added tips to help you practice adaptability

  1. Reach out and touch someone. Think of a “difficult” person with whom you’d like to communicate better. What motivates that person? For a Director, it’s control; for a Socializer, recognition; for a Relater, camaraderie; and for a Thinker, analysis. What can you do that will reinforce what this person needs most?
  2. Don’t be too quick to judge. Being able to recognize the styles is important, but be careful about judging someone’s style too quickly and making irrevocable decisions based on your perceived compatibility. Your knowledge of the styles should expand your relationships, not limit them. So don’t use The Platinum Rule to stereotype or pigeonhole others.
  3. Use self-knowledge as an insight, not an excuse. By knowing your style, you’ll see your strengths and weaknesses as others do. But don’t use this as a crutch to justify unacceptable behavior, thinking thoughts like, “I’m a Director. So I’m naturally impatient and domineering.” Or “It’s okay if I don’t follow up because I’m an Socializer.”
  4. Learn to motivate by style. Whenever you face a task-at the office or in the home-it’s likely that a big chunk of your effort involves attempting to motivate others. You can use your knowledge of The Platinum Rule to inspire each style:
    • Directors: Be straightforward: Here’s what’s wrong, here’s how it came about, here’s how it’s likely to affect us.
    • Socializers: Explain that while meeting this challenge may be difficult, it’ll also distinguish those who do.
    • Relaters: Support their reluctance toward change, see if it’s had a negative impact on them, and work with them to remedy that.
    • Thinkers: They want to know the reasons behind the change. So be organized, thorough, and precise and provide documentation of any new plan.
  5. Tailor your criticism by style. Telling someone they need to improve is difficult but often necessary at work and at home. Here are some possible approaches:
    • Directors: Stress the result wanted and let them come up with ways to achieve it.
    • Socializers: Don’t be vague. Have the Socializer repeat the agreed-upon changes back to you so there’s no chance of miscommunication.
    • Relaters: Focus on performance, not personality. Go out of your way to explain that there’s nothing wrong with them personally.
    • Thinkers: Be specific. Say precisely what’s being done wrong, outline the steps for correcting it, and set a deadline for completion.

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