At a very young age, I held close the saying “treat others in the same way that you would like to be treated.” It was not until recently that I realized the limitation of this statement. Leading with this in mind, we may not fully recognize the individual differences of our colleagues. If we were to treat everyone in the way we wished to be treated, this would falsely assume that we are all very similar and wish to be treated in the same way. As we know, this is not the case.
The above reflection came courtesy of the following saying from Dr Helen Fisher “Do not treat others as you want to be treated – treat others as they want to be treated.” This statement had a huge impact on me as a leader and made me consider the way that I interact with my colleagues but also how I need to coach other leaders in my school to seek to understand others first in order to improve working relationships.
Each of us have preferred styles and modes of working. Some of us may prefer the face to face conversation, others may prefer their communication by email. If we do not find compromises in light of our differences, establishing healthy workplace relationships becomes more challenging.
Take for example, a school leader, who prefers to do most of their communication via email. While this may be preferable for them, others may not appreciate a constant stream of emails to the extent that they struggle to manage what is in their inbox and they begin to not bother responding to requests that the emails contain. Subsequently, the leader sending the emails gets frustrated, tensions arise and we know the rest.
It is important, first and foremost, for leaders to develop a strong sense of self-awareness of how their actions influence others, both positively and negatively. Secondly, it takes a level of emotional maturity on the part of the leader to compromise on their behaviours first before expecting others to do the same, so that a workable solution can be found in the interests of all concerned.
A good way to find out more about how others wish to be treated is to ask members of your team the following to questions:
- What are some things that you would like me to do to support your work and enjoyment of your job?
- Are there any particular things that you would like me to stop doing to improve our working relationship?
Granted, this is not necessarily an easy thing to do with a team and a good level of trust needs to be developed for this to be productive but it can work, especially if improving relationships is an important goal in your team or school.