Most of us grew up with parents and teachers who taught us the Golden Rule; treat others the way you want to be treated. That is an awesome rule of thumb for most aspects of life, until you try to apply it to leadership. When your goal is to be a leader who builds strong relationships with a wide spectrum of people who are highly motivated to follow you in the direction you are going, the Golden Rule is detrimental to your efforts.
Here’s the inherent problem with the Golden Rule- not everyone wants to treated the way you want to be treated.
An executive we’re coaching is a very caring leader who has a high need to get his team together for events like Happy Hour, celebration of birthdays and team celebrations. He recently received feedback from both his boss and several team members that they don’t like having to attend these types of events. This executive feels that his boss is not supporting his role as a manager and that some team members are not caring enough, or motivated enough, to be team players. If you know the players involved, this executive’s assumption is far from correct. He leads a very diverse team, and how he wants to be treated is simply not how his boss or team members care to be treated.
A much better rule for leaders to live by is to treat others how they, not you, want to be treated. When you treat people the way they want to be treated, you will find that more people will want to follow you as the leader in the direction you are headed.
We take a very simple approach and divide people into four behavioral or relationship styles.
- Supporters: prefer to be in relationships where they can be helpful and supportive, and they feel the help and support that they provide is highly valued and appreciated by others
- Analyticals: prefer to be in situations where they can work independently and autonomously to accomplish tasks
- Drivers: prefer to direct the accomplishment of a task through the help and support of others
- Harmonizers: prefer to work in a team setting that may require them to play different roles, and are focused on everyone getting along.
So, how do people want to be treated? First, I need to emphasize the importance of not pigeon holing people. Although people may like to be treated one way in one situation, they may prefer to interact with people in a totally different way in another situation. We also recognize that even though someone may be dominant in one leadership, communication or behavioral style, they may change how they interact with others depending on the needs of the leader or situation.
That said, here are some rules of thumb that are helpful when building strong relationships with the different styles of people.
Support their personal feelings: Supporters focus more on feelings than they do on facts, and they have a strong concern for relationships. Take the time to demonstrate that you genuinely care for them as a person, and focus on building and maintaining trust. Amiables are trusting by nature. If you violate that trust, however, you will have a hard time regaining it.
Recognize their work. Supporters have a high need to be liked, and work best when they feel valued by others. Take the time to recognize the unique contributions and ideas that they bring to the table.
Be patient. Supporters often ask many questions, which can, at times, come across as being unfocused. Understand that supporters may be asking questions in an attempt to build rapport.
Listen. Amiables are typically good listeners, and appreciate this quality in others. Practice being an active listener, and ask them for their opinions and feelings about the matter or concern being discussed.
Avoid conflict. Supporters have a strong desire for harmony. When approaching problems and challenges, remain positive and focused on the solution.
Communicate clearly and accurately: Analyticals need to have timely and detailed information in order to feel confident in making decisions and completing tasks. Communicate honestly and frequently to ensure they have the information they need to proceed.
Support their approach: Your analytical employees are cautious and reserved, and process information slowly. They approach problems and tasks in a logical and organized manner, and want to explore all the options before committing to a decision. Be patient, and be willing to repeat information and provide additional information when it is requested.
Don’t take it personally: Analyticals may come across as unemotional, and difficult to read. They are also often uncomfortable with bringing personal feelings into the mix. Recognize that proceeding cautiously and unemotionally is characteristic of their style, even though it may come off as aloofness.
Give them autonomy: Analyticals prefer to be in situations where they can work independently and autonomously to accomplish their tasks. Give them the space to focus and work independently when possible.
Focus on business: Drivers have a strong concern for outcomes, and, unlike the supporters, relationships are secondary to results. They are focused on facts, not feelings. Discussing problems/tasks in a way that focuses on personal feelings on concerns causes drivers to perceive others as weak. Focus on business and stay results-oriented.
Communicate efficiently: Drivers process information quickly, and do not have the need for details and lengthy explanations. Communicate with them in a direct, focused, and succinct manner.
Ask, don’t tell: Drivers are often impatient. I’m fond of the saying, “You can tell them, but you can’t tell them much.” Don’t try to tell a driver what the solution is. Instead, ask questions that allow them to arrive at answers. They have a strong need to win. Provide them with options, and let them choose the solution.
Be assertive: Drivers are confident and assertive, which may come across as domineering and aggressive at times. When working through challenges and problems, raise your level of assertiveness to match theirs.
Appeal to their strong sense of commitment: Harmonizers enjoy working on a team, and make great team players. Motivate them by appealing to their commitment to the team’s success. Ensure that they can clearly see how their role contributes to the success of the team, department, and organization.
Take the time to connect: Harmonizers are personable and sociable. Take the time to ask them questions, and connect with them on a personal level. They enjoy humor, and may take business a little less seriously than other styles. Keep things light and humorous when possible.
Encourage their creativity and innovation: Harmonizers are creative and open to change. Encourage them to be innovative and support their desire to try new things, even if it doesn’t work out. Focus on coming up with a number of options, and look for new or unique approaches.
Strong teams are made up of diverse personalities and talents. The ability to identify and understand your team members’ styles – and adapt yours accordingly – will help you build productive relationships that will create success for both you as the leader, and for the members of your team.