The Golden Rule – and why it doesn’t apply to coaching

The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, appears in most religions. Treating others as you would like to be treated is a sound moral principle, but does it apply in everyday business interactions?

At one level it clearly does, we should always treat everyone with the respect and courtesy we’d expect to receive but, when it comes to coaching, should we always coach everyone the way we like to be coached ourselves?

Coaching is about improving skills to improve performance

To do that successfully you need four things:

  1. A clear picture of what effective behaviour looks like
  2. An accurate understanding of the coachee’s current behaviour
  3. A coach who can give meaningful feedback and guidance
  4. A coachee who is motivated to make the necessary change

It’s at this fourth bullet point where The Golden Rule breaks down

At Personal Strengths we provide individual personal profiles based on what gives everyone their feeling of self-worth and what they value. We call this their Motivational Value System (MVS), and our research shows there are three motives that combine to make everyone’s unique motives and drives. These are:

  • Concerned with performance, assertive and directing (what we call a red MVS)
  • Concerned with people, altruistic and nurturing (a blue MVS)
  • Concerned with process, analytical and autonomising (a green MVS)

We all have all three motivators but in different proportions and it’s this that drives our behaviour. We simply do what most closely addresses the things that motivate us. And when it comes to behaviour change, coaching someone in a direction they are happy and willing to take, by addressing their motives, is a lot easier and more effective than pushing them away from their natural preferences.

Let’s take an example. You’re a sales leader with a red MVS, you’re driven by performance, so wanting to smash your sales target is as natural as breathing. It seems so right to you that you assume everyone feels the same way and so coaching boils down to little more than “We’re aiming for 125% of quota this quarter”. And whilst some of your sales team, the ones with red MVSs, lap it up, others seem less enthused.

Those with blue or green MVSs simply are not motivated by that approach. Those with a blue MVS want to know what’s in it for those around them, they want to hear “It would be great for the whole team and our customers if we could…”, whilst those with a green MVS will respond best to “Let’s plan how to…”.

To be an effective sales coach you must recognise the MVS of each individual and adapt your coaching style to appeal to it. That way you get an entire team who are motivated and the biggest chance of exceeding that target – just what you wanted all along.

It’s not rocket science, it’s just another old maxim – put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Lisa Graham, Director of Client Relationships
Lisa has years of experience helping clients to implement and sustain performance improvement projects on a global scale. Her areas of expertise include, leadership, team management, relationship management, conflict management, culture change, sales and negotiation. She works closely with her clients throughout all the phases of the training cycle.


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