Here’s the catch. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for them.
Back in 400AD, Confucius coined the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you want yourself to be treated.”
While this is generally good advice, the compass by which I have lived my life, and accepted doctrine with most of the religious and spiritual movements in the world…it doesn’t give you the whole answer.
As a business leader, a brother, a husband, and I suspect as a father (kids are still small) what works for me doesn’t work for the other.
Let me give you an example. I actually respond really well to a deadline and being left alone to get on with the job. I really respond well to being given the full picture of why I am doing what I am doing. And after that, I don’t need a lot of structure.
But over the years, I have learned that many of my high-performing colleagues and staff members need a different approach. They need structure, clarity. Some need lots of words of affirmation, others need to be recognized publicly. I don’t think anybody responds well to a public lambasting, but definitely, some people take it better than others.
The world is full of smart people who have done the work to determine how people are different. Psychometric evaluations and the consultants who charge you for them are a dime a dozen, but I do think there is a little bit of value in the following two tools:
The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman):
These include words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts.
I am completely an acts of service kind of guy. I, therefore, don’t see the value of overdoing words of affirmation, for example. I would rather show people how much I value them and their effort because that is how I feel loved.
The five love languages can be massively impactful, but they also dovetail beautifully with my other favourite tool: The Enneagram.
I am a 7 – an enthusiastic visionary. That means I reframe well, move on quickly – and, as a result, can be seen as insincere or unsympathetic. The word that comes to mind is “glib” – when there is more empathy required, I can often fall short.
I’ll give you an example. Some years ago an employee of mine was in a car crash in the company vehicle. She was not hurt, but she was shaken up. I went immediately to transactional comms, which were about the report, insurance, what do we do now to replace the resource, etc.
It was a massively negative experience for her because I didn’t ask her if she was ok. I simply assumed she was. She called me, right? I would be ok and wouldn’t need a check-in in that situation.
It was a lesson.
So, particularly the no 2 on the Enneagram scale – the Considerate Helper – needs constant affirmation and recognition in order to be their best selves. They thrive on it.
You can imagine how the no 7 would struggle with that. But that’s where we need to dig deep people. The Popeye idea of “I yam what I yam” is fine if you’re a cartoon sailor who beefs up on spinach, but for the rest of us – those of us who want to be good leaders, spouses, friends and parents – it might be useful to take a good look inside, and figure out where our blind spots are – and how to work on them.
Let’s link this back to the Impostor Syndrome – our old friend, that pesky inner voice that keeps on telling us we’re not good enough. 3 out of 4 people we know have that voice ringing pretty loud, but for different reasons, in different ways.
It would therefore be solid practice to think about who they are. What motivates them. What does their Impostor's voice sound like, and how could you help in taming it?
A great podcast on this subject by Callie Ammons groups Enneagram types by their thinking, feeling and action centres – and how you, as the leader or colleague, can assist them in overcoming.
These types will do well doing a bit more work. More research. More proof to support their actions. A way to help them is to provide a deadline so that they can work with purpose towards what they need to do.
These types get frozen by too much research. They have everything they need, they just need to find the impetus to act. An accountability coach might be a really good idea here, someone to hold them to intended actions. In a business context, strict KPIs would work.
These types have a very loud Impostor. And that impostor gets way too much airtime, so the self-talk needs to get some attention. It would not serve to try and divert away from feelings here – in fact, lean into them. But with positive frameworks. Daily rituals of gratitude and intention setting, reflection and working hard on reframing habits. That’s the ticket.
You need to do your own work, of course. And figure out what would motivate you to tame that inner voice. If you are the 1 out of 4 that doesn’t suffer from Impostor Syndrome, good for you. But you still need to do the work, because understanding how it shows up for others will make you much more effective in your relationships.
So, a good way to stack 'em:
The golden rule as a base. Moderate your words and actions on the five love languages, and to achieve real results in terms of getting things done – tame those inner Impostors by utilizing frameworks like the Enneagram.
Next week, I’ll go deeper into the Enneagram and the Impostor Syndrome!