It’s easy to overthink management. The minute you’re put in charge of a team of people, you start reading articles and books about how to lead, encourage, motivate, coach, discipline, and inspire your employees. (Frankly, it’s exhausting.)
And while the strategies and theories in those books and articles can definitely be valuable, there’s also something to going back to the basics.
In a recent Forbes article, management expert Victor Lipman says, “One of the most fundamental things a manager can do to get others to work their hardest is easy: Treat others as you’d wish to be treated yourself.”
Too simple? Too reminiscent of your parents’ lectures from when they caught you being mean to your siblings?
Turns out, it’s pretty solid advice, as long as you keep the following things in mind:
It Can’t Govern Everything You Do
By applying the advice in the most literal sense, you can take it to mean that you do everything the way you prefer—down to the way you communicate and coach—because that’s how you’d like everyone to treat you.
But it’s important to remember that not everyone responds to the same communication and management style. You may prefer direct, straight-to-the-point confrontation, for example, but your less assertive employees may prefer a gentler approach. By treating those employees the way you want to be treated (quite aggressively, in this example), you’re going to end up lowering your effectiveness and getting frustrated that your employee isn’t responding the way you imagined.
You may be the boss, but no matter how you want to be treated, you may have to adjust the way you relate with your employees to be the most effective manager.
The Opposite Should Be True, Too
“The important flip side of this managerial coin is that effective managers don’t undermine their efforts by treating people as they wouldn’t want to be treated themselves,” Lipman notes.
So it’s not just about treating people the way you want to be treated; it’s equally about avoiding doing the things you wouldn’t want done to you.
Maybe your team is working on a project that’s on a tight deadline for the next day. You ask them to stay late to finish everything up—but instead of rallying with them, you leave right at 5 PM because you’re the boss and you can. Sound fair? It’s not. And you’d hate if your boss did that to you.
As a manager, you can’t avoid rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty, and you can’t ask others to make sacrifices but refuse to make any yourself. Rather than making your employees loyal and productive, Lipman says, “This makes them reluctant to do their work or resentful while doing it.”
It Should Influence Your Actions at the Most Fundamental Level
One of the worst things that can happen to a manager is for him to adopt the mindset that he is better than everyone else—that because he has the title “boss,” he’s worth more than the team who reports up to him.
“With the trappings of executivedom and the positional power that comes with it, it’s easy to forget some basic behavioral principles,” Lipman shares.
So, how you should use this advice is in the way you approach your everyday dealings with employees. If an issue needs to be addressed, you address it directly. If you need to break bad news to the team, you do it honestly. If you need to handle a dispute between team members, you do it fairly.
Do you want your employees to be honest with you? Respectful? Fair? Even-tempered? The key is to display that behavior yourself. Through that fundamental behavior, you’ll show your team you’re a dedicated manager—a leader they want to look up to, work hard for, and create success for.
Your parents may not have known they were giving you management advice when they taught you the “golden rule” years ago—but used correctly, it’s an effective way to lead a loyal and productive team.