Most of us know the Golden Rule or, if you are a philosopher, the Ethic of Reciprocity. “Do to others as you want them to do to you.” Or, speak to others as you want them to speak to you. Or, help others like you want them to help you. You don’t have to be a philosopher, however, to understand that working well with others is a good way to have others want to work with you. A workplace where all employees, including managers, treat each other as they would like to be treated is a fertile work environment, where productivity and employee satisfaction grows.
Sadly, it is the nature and disposition of almost all people that as soon as they get a little authority – the title of boss, manager or team leader – they will immediately begin to use compulsion to get what they want, and they forget something as basic to success as the Golden Rule. They substitute the Golden Rule for a twisted version. “He who has the gold, makes the rule.”
While it is reasonable that the person who funds the payroll should have the right to lawfully control the workplace, it is equally reasonable to assume that the way employees are treated will have an impact on productivity. No matter how much money one makes. No matter how intelligent one is. No matter how much professional success one achieves. Autocratic management styles are not healthy, except in some military type situations where unquestioning obedience is necessary to save lives. This is not to say that autocrats can’t be successful. They can be, but just not as successful as they could be and not for as long as they should be.
In fact, my own training as an auditor reinforced this autocratic style. Our motto was, “In God we trust, all others we audit.” That might work for someone whose job it is to check for compliance but it certainly is not appropriate for a manager. Remember that auditors are the ones who join the war effort after the battle is over in order to count the dead and bayonet the wounded. Healthy work environments are led by those who inspire, not by those that question employees’ every move and motive.
We all know from experience that good managers with successful teams spend their time teaching rather than criticizing. A good manager always assumes the best in people which promotes creativity, innovation and motivation. A good manager also inspires his staff by helping them understand how their business contributes to the well- being of the community. This fertile work environment also helps grow profitability.
Patrick Lencioni, a bestselling business researcher and author, states the following in his book, The Advantage: “In this world of ubiquitous information and nanosecond technology exchange, it’s harder than it has ever been in history to maintain a competitive advantage based on intelligence or knowledge…..I have become absolutely convinced that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are. I have found that some of the humbler underdogs are more apt to shed their preconceived notions about running a business and allow themselves to gain advantage around a different set of principles. The key ingredient for improvement and success is not access to knowledge; it is really about the health of the environment.”
In other words – health trumps intelligence. The most important skill of a leader is helping everyone to work cooperatively together; creating a synergism that utilizes the collective intelligence, insight, inspiration, creativity and innovation of the entire workforce.
A healthy workplace is led by managers whose leadership style can be described as collegial, collaborative and considerate. A healthy workplace is where honest disagreements are freely discussed without fear of retribution. Finally, a healthy workplace is where mistakes are made and resolved without exaggerating the problem and “horriblizing” the offender. Even when termination is necessary, it is done without animosity.
Living the Golden Rule at work might seem too “touchy-feely” for some, but so what! When you treat your employees with the same dignity and respect that you expect, the workplace is healthier, happier and more productive – more fertile; and the business is much more likely to thrive.