The Platinum Rule for Project Managers

By Dr. Tresia D. Eaves

This concept came to me on a sleepless night where I wrestled with a problem I was having.  Our daughter was so angry, and the relationship seemed unmanageable.  It felt like she didn’t even know me, based on the things she was saying.  As I struggled with a resolution, I thought about “The Golden Rule” and how it didn’t apply here because treating her as “I” wanted to be treated wasn’t working. My job was particularly challenging at that time (when it rains, it pours) and I was trying to figure out how to flip the script on what my company was doing to serve our clients. We were also treating the clients as we wanted to be treated rather than how THEY wanted to be serviced. What if I created a new rule?  Since my wedding band was made of platinum and I knew platinum was worth more per ounce than gold, what if I created “The Platinum Rule”?  And it would differ from the standard in this way: I would treat others as THEY wanted to be treated. Having tried this and been successful using this technique with difficult relationships, and now at work in many instances, I can attest to the effectiveness! We used The Platinum Rule to resolve the issue with our daughter by hearing her out and getting an understanding of what she wanted to do (attend an online MCAT prep course) and why. She also wanted us to pay for it: $2500. Since she had recently completed her master’s degree, we felt it was time for her to pick up the financial baton and run for her dreams. We offered to pay part and the rest, she could “crowd” source the funding (she would ask family and friends to donate to her cause in lieu of graduation gifts) rather than us just writing a check.  Win-win.

What is The Platinum Rule? It is, “Do unto others as “THEY” would have done unto “THEM.”

This is easily related to the 5 Cs of Acknowledgment explored by Judy Umlas in Grateful Leadership. Being conscious of how the other person wants to be treated means doing the work: within ourselves, within our relationships, and with the world to understand and know how others want to be treated.  We make the choice to understand how others want to be treated and we make the choice to do the work in our relationships to understand how to treat others as they want to be treated. I’d use the example of a first-generation immigrant family where the children were born in the United States and the parents do not speak good English.  The children might choose to speak to their parents in their native language since they know that makes them more comfortable. There is also the need for courage when seeking to understand how someone wants to be treated. We must be willing to put ourselves out there to try at The Platinum Rule. It takes courage to try something new. There is also how we communicate with others when we are treating them as they want to be treated. This is a whole section unto itself in my series of podcasts about The Platinum Rule since it’s so key to its successful deployment. Finally, this takes commitment – we must dedicate ourselves to treating others as they want to be treated.

This concept could be transformational to so many areas of focus but particularly in project management.  What if we were treated as WE wanted to be treated rather than the way the retailer, business, or other party wanted to treat us – based on their own paradigms?  This is what the internet is bringing about right?  When we search for something on Google, don’t ads get routed to us through various channels (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) trying to sell us what we want rather than what they want us to have as they did before? 

This could also be transformational in business as a whole: performance management (you reward me in the ways I want to be rewarded not some corporate standard based on what you WANT to give me). This may mean that companies give employees a survey when they start where they say how they want to be rewarded or acknowledged. In customer service, you could give each customer choices on how they want to receive their rewards and they choose what works best for them. You are seeing great applications of this thought process in customer loyalty programs where people now have a choice on their rewards. In relationships, when you learn Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages,” you can show love in your relationships the ways THEY want to be loved.

Some blog topics I will cover in this series include:

– The Platinum Rule for Project Managers: Grateful Acknowledgment – beginning with Judy Umlas’s work in the “Power of Acknowledgment,” and “Grateful Leadership,” we could learn how to reward others in the ways THEY want to be acknowledged

– The Platinum Rule for Project Managers: Grateful Listening – when listening to your kids or team members, you know there is a way to listen that they need – no smartphones, no tv noise, etc. In whatever ways someone needs you to listen, it is worth understanding.

– The Platinum Rule for Project Managers: Grateful Leadership – how do people want to be led?  Do they need you to teach them specific skills, do they want you to mentor them, do they want you to use scenario-based learning or recommend a book list and discussing each book?

– The Platinum Rule for Project Managers: Grateful Communications – is someone visual, auditory, kinetic; is someone literal or thinks abstractly, is someone an executive or boots on the ground getting the work done day-to-day.  People need you to communicate to them in ways that translate the message you are trying to send.

-The Platinum Rule for Project Managers: Grateful Connections – as mentioned in the earlier example, learning the ways people in your life want to relate is very important.  Maybe someone shows acts of service as their way to show love for you, but you prefer physical affection or words of affirmation.  These are critical skills that The Platinum Rule can help you draw out of your connections, partner, or relative to be closer.

-The Platinum Rule for Project Managers: Grateful Retention/Development of Talent – when it comes to keeping great talent, organizations are challenged (Re: Harvard Business Review article by Margaret Rogers) because they don’t use the “user centered focus” that we learn from the Agile development methods. Many say their bosses don’t understand their goals and some say their bosses don’t care. By applying The Platinum Rule, we would do the work of understanding what our team members want out of their experience working for our organizations and that would go a long way to retaining talent.  Losses of corporate knowledge lost companies more than $680 Million in 2020.

-The Platinum Rule for Project Management: Grateful Best Practices – understanding your stakeholder’s needs and vision is about understanding how THEY want done unto THEM.  Getting lost in your own ideas of how something should be done can put you down the road to the wrong vision or incorrect requirements.  This session also brings in several of the previous sections since we listen, lead, and communicate as project managers.

-The Platinum Rule and Program/Portfolio/PMO Management: Grateful Excellence – again, understanding your stakeholders and how a particular group of projects, a program of work, or a portfolio impacts your strategic objectives is part of understanding to treat others as THEY want to be treated.

            In conclusion, I am convinced that if we can flip the script and start using “The Platinum Rule” rather than “The Golden Rule,” we can have much happier families, careers, and highly optimize our teams with renewed energy and respect.  This is a new and innovative way to look at how we interact with others. I will do the work to get to know my teams so that I know how THEY want to work, communicate, and be acknowledged. I will use Grateful Leadership in how I exhibit the 5 Cs and in how I apply The Platinum Rule. I want people to feel seen and known. I want to treat people the way THEY want to be treated: will you join me on this journey?

Dr. Tresia Eaves has 30 years of technology consulting and Information Technology leadership experience.  She is also an author, instructor, public speaker, and proud veteran of the US Air Force.  She earned her Ph.D. in 2020 from the University of North Texas, and her area of study was Information Science. Dr. Eaves is a published author with her book, “Above and Beyond: The Secrets of Outstanding Project Leadership” published in 2014 by IIL and multiple other articles in professional and academic journals. She resides in Grapevine, Texas with her family. You can reach her at [email protected] or find her on LinkedIn at: