I once asked the leader of a struggling team: “What would happen if you treated your employees and colleagues the way you expect them to treat your customers?” For this leader, the way customers were to be treated was clear: with respect, a benefit-of-the-doubt stance, and, most important, how they want to be treated. Undoubtedly, not all customers made this easy! Still, it was a clear company value for all employees to learn how their customers want to be treated and courteously provide them what they need. For this leader, the connection between a satisfied customer and the bottom line was obvious, making it an easy priority on which to focus the articulation of company values, training and development efforts, and employee performance evaluations.
Fast forward a few years and I heard a colleague say something that triggered this memory. Addressing a room of leaders, my colleague said, “You must treat people not with the golden rule of how you want to be treated, but rather with the platinum rule, which is to treat others as they would like to be treated.” This resonated with me, and I began to connect the understanding of personality type with the way we treat others and view it from a dual lens of personal competence and social competence.
The Building Blocks of Relationship ManagementWhen we engage in a personality type learning experience, several things occur that invite us to enhance our personal competence—which includes our self-awareness and self-management—as well as build our social competence, which includes social awareness and relationship management. You might recognize these concepts from Daniel Goldsmith’s work around emotional intelligence. The model is simple: Working better with others requires that we first know and manage ourselves for the increasing benefit of us and those with whom we interact. It’s helpful to view personal and social competence as building blocks, in that we must first become aware of self before we can seek to manage self.
Similarly, we must first be aware of others before we can seek to manage our relationships with others.
Interactions can be greatly influenced by personality preferences. In the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) theory, we learn about how we’re energized personally (Extraversion [E]/Introversion [I]), how we prefer to take in information (Sensing [S]/Intuition [N]), how we make decisions (Thinking [T]/Feeling [F]), and how we prefer to orient ourselves to the world (Judging [J]/Perceiving [P]). Understanding one’s preferences can support increased personal acceptance, satisfaction, and self-management. Likewise, applying this with a focus toward others can help us see what they may prefer similarly or differently to us, and consider ways their personality preferences might influence them. It can also help us recognize how the combination of individual personality preferences can be easy or frustrating, satisfying or demotivating, and complementary or conflicting. To build stronger workplace relationships, we must use this knowledge to apply the platinum rule and treat others as they would like to be treated!
Case in Point: Improving Relationship Communication With Type UnderstandingTake communication, which is at the heart of initiating, building, and maintaining workplace relationships. With certain tweaks, we can apply an understanding of personality type so that our communication better appeals to others.
- E – I: If we know someone’s preferred way to reenergize and interact with others, we can consider whether they might prefer to engage and refine their thoughts aloud and through active sharing (E) or through internal consideration and reflection (I). The platinum rule means we flex to give them the right space for their ideas to be shared and heard.
- S – N: If we know someone’s preference around how they take in information, we can tailor our message with a stronger focus on facts and concrete realities (S) or on meanings, possibilities, and connections (N). The platinum rule here means we flex to give them the type of information they need or want most.
- T – F: If we know someone’s preference for how they make decisions, applying the platinum rule means we can ensure that their most valued criteria in making important decisions is heard and integrated into a stronger decision-making approach.
- J – P: If we know someone’s preference for how they like to orient themselves to the outside world, the platinum rule means we flex to their needs around time, closure, flexibility, and openness to possibilities.
The platinum rule isn’t easy, but it’s highly valuable for enhancing and strengthening our workplace relationships. In the example of communication, research demonstrates that when the quality of our communication is high in workplace relationships, we promote shared understanding, smoother overall functioning, and better performance—impressive outcomes! Applying understanding of personality type to not only inform your self-awareness and self-management but also support your awareness of others and their needs can give you valuable insights and tools to build stronger workplace relationships for today and for the future.