Introducing the "Platinum Rule" of communication and how to embrace it

You've heard of the Golden Rule. Learn how the Platinum Rule can help you become a more effective communicator.

“Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Many business professionals diligently attempt to practice the Golden Rule at work that we all learned as youngsters. A workplace communication version of that philosophy would be "Communicate with other people the way you want them to communicate with you."  While it's a nice warm and fuzzy concept, a quick reality check indicates a serious flaw in the logic: the Golden Rule assumes everyone has the same needs as you.

While the Golden Rule doesn’t work at a certain level of specific application, the "Platinum Rule" does. Rather than communicating with other people the way you want them to communicate with you, the Platinum Rule stresses communicating with other people they way they want you to communicate with them. I first learned about this strategy from Dr. Tony Alessandra in the 90s. It is 10 times harder to do well, but 100 times better than the Golden Rule when it comes to communicating. So, you do the math and see how much value you see using it.

Here are 11 best practices and lessons learned that can help you evolve into Platinum Rule Workplace Communicators:

1. Accept the reality that people are different. Many of you are acquainted with the various personality style profiles that validate this aspect of diversity. DiSC, MBTI and MIR all point to key differences in how people communicate and, therefore, how they like to be communicated with at work.

2. Recognize that your personality style preference has its inherent communication strengths and weaknesses. Play your strengths while minimizing the negative impact of your weaknesses. 

3. Strive to be flexible and adaptable. These are two characteristics that are helpful in just about any situation, but especially when communicating.

>> RELATED: How do I get my company to rock at communicating?

4. Plan workplace communication one individual interaction at a time. This means a time commitment, and that’s where the "10 times harder" part comes in. While it’s easier to go through the motions of communicating on Golden Rule autopilot, that strategy misses the target most of the time.

5. Focus on your communications being receiver-centered instead of sender-centered. They realize the whole communication process revolves around sending messages to receivers on their terms that will help them accomplish the specific outcomes of that communication process. It’s all about them – the receivers –and the outcomes and not at all about us, the senders.

6. When you know or can accurately guess the primary style of the receiver, modify your approach accordingly. Your goal is to maximize comfort for the receiver and minimize the conflict inherent in our communication differences. In so doing, you increase the receiver’s potential for active listening, understanding, retention and action that support your defined outcomes.

7. When you don’t know the receiver’s style, look for clues. These clues can be found in the type and amount of words they regularly use, the tone of their voice, their pace of delivery, body language, even attire and what you see in their work space.

8. While we have a component of each style quadrant in us, we tend to wear one hat more than the other three. Using the DiSC terminology, if the receiver looks like a D, sounds like a D, uses D words and even dresses like a D, they are probably wearing the D hat at that moment. So, communicate with that D the way that D wants you to.

>> RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

9. When you don’t yet have enough of a sense for their preferred style, use some all-purpose default strategies. These strategies should initially work until you get more telling signs. Talk less and listen more. Tell less and ask more. The extroverts will appreciate your less-is-more approach that allows them to talk more, and the introverts will be more comfortable with you. Ask good, focused questions to gather important information without interrogating or intimidating.

10. Offer choices where possible and appropriate. Under-promise and over-deliver on those choices. And make sure they’re receiver-centered choices.

11. And above all, Platinum Rule Communicators interact with uncommon courtesy. This means saying what you’ll do, doing what you say and being respectful of the receiver’s time, feelings and needs.

Like I said up front, being a Platinum Rule Workplace Communicator is 10 times harder than interacting on Golden Rule autopilot, but 100 times better. If you want to evolve into a much higher level of workplace communication effectiveness, make the commitment to do what it takes. All the rest is just practice and details.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

 
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  • Next up: How to improv my elevator speech

    How to improv my elevator speech

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  • Next up: FAQs With Phil: How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

    FAQs With Phil: How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

    In this new series, COSE's own Phil Stella advises creating an effective elevator pitch using the (soon-to-be-famous) SSCBH approach—impressing people you connect with and improving networking results.

     

    In this new Mind Your Business series, FAQs With Phil, COSE’s own Phil Stella answers some of the most frequently asked questions small business owners have regarding how to communicate effectively*. 

    This is a good question and I get it a lot. Before I dive into the answer, let me first explain why I prefer “elevator speech” to “elevator pitch.” Using the word “pitch” sounds like you are trying to sell something. No one likes to be sold to or to feel like you are only interested in talking with them to make a sale. Calling it a “speech” sounds like you want to share some information. Even though the difference in connotation is subtle, it can impact the mindset of the person doing it.

    That said, the purpose of an elevator speech is to answer a stranger's question “What do you do?" in an effective, efficient, and engaging manner. It begins a short, focused dialog. It is important to remember that this is not an invitation for a monologue. The purpose of the dialog is to begin to answer two important networking objectives questions:

    1. Is this person someone I or someone I know can help? Or,
    2. Can this person or someone he or she knows help me? 

    They're separate concepts and connected with an “or,” not an “and.” Thinking about it with an “and” implies that you can't have one without the other. This is simply not true for best-in-class network pros.

    RELATED: The 10 worst networking practices and how to avoid them

    Let’s take a look at an example of an effective elevator speech: 

    Imagine I get in the elevator on my way down from a conference in Key Tower. A fellow conference-goer hops in the elevator with me. She turns to me, takes a look at my conference name tag, and says…

    “What do you do, Phil?” 

    “I empower business leaders to reduce their pain when communicating with colleagues or customers by phone, in person, in writing or through presentations... The pain they experience and, often, the pain they cause others.”

    Why is it effective? This is a compelling elevator speech because it uses the famous SSCBH approach. OK, we just made this up, but it works. The SSCBH approach calls on you as the deliverer to ensure your pitch is Short and Simple, includes Clear language, has a Benefits-related focus, and includes a clever Hook at the end.

    RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

    This speech does just that. But I’m not going to only talk about myself. I am going to ask her in return about her profession, and look for a connection between what we both do and how we might be able to help each other. By the time we get down to the lobby, we will exchange goodbyes and business cards. And, chances are good that that elevator encounter won’t be the last time we are in contact with each other. 

    So, stop pitching in the elevator and start engaging in dialogues. The people you talk with will appreciate the difference and your results will improve.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

    *If you have a question for Phil, please send him an email at Phil@communicate-confidently.com

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  • Next up: Maintain positive ties with former employees in 7 easy steps

    Maintain positive ties with former employees in 7 easy steps

    Having a positive relationship with former employees starts the day you hire them. Learn the steps toward maintaining positive ties with everyone who works for you.

     

    How do you maintain a positive connection with someone who no longer works for you? As you’ll see, the answer is simple to understand but can be complicated to accomplish.

    The solution to creating positive relationships with former employees is to create positive relationships with all employees from the moment they accept your job offer. This concept must be a credible core value and a visible part of your workplace culture.

    Here are some steps to ensuring your relationships with your employees start and continue on a positive note.

    Positive employee relationship step no. 1: Commit to effective communications. 

    Well, you knew I was going to start with this one. But it really is one of the most important ways to create positive relationships. Create a proactive employee communication commitment from the top down and be its loudest champion.

    Positive employee relationship step no. 2: Maintain a positive employee performance culture. 

    The main idea here is to clearly define expectations, regularly evaluate performance and fairly reward results. When employees and their supervisors are on the same page related to performance and what is expected, it takes the stress and tension out of performance evaluations. If they fail to meet these expectations, employees won’t be surprised if they aren’t rewarded with a promotion, pay increase, bonus or pat on the back. But al-so, be sure to fairly reward your stand-out employees who meet and go above and be-yond what is expected. They will feel valued and know their efforts are appreciated, which will have a positive impact on your relationship.

    Positive employee relationship step no. 3: Be more than their boss.

    Your employees need a boss, of course. But most employees will also value and appreciate your effort to be their success coach and mentor. Embrace the philosophy that you can’t succeed in your job until you help each member of your team to succeed in their jobs.

    RELATED: Employee retention challenges and solutions

    Positive employee relationship step no. 4: Help them develop their careers

    Collaborate with each employee on creating a career development plan. The key to this, however, is realizing that at some point, their best next step might be with another organization. Enjoy the reputation of being a committed developer of people.

    Positive employee relationship step no 5: Wish them well

    When an employee does leave, accept it gracefully, wish them well and keep in regular contact. You should especially keep this step in mind for the employees you would rehire if you could, because you never know what the future holds. If they leave before securing a new position, write a referral letter that is appropriately honest and as positive as possible.

    Positive employee relationship step no. 6: Stay connected

    Add former employees to your regular LinkedIn network and include your recommendation in their profile. You may want to do the same for other social media channels you both share.

    RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

    Positive employee relationship step no. 7: Consider them for future opportunities

    When a better opportunity in your business opens up, consider whether any of your former employees would be interested and succeed at it. Reach out and invite them in for interviews. Often, the most loyal and appreciative employees are those who left for something better, but end up returning.

    One interesting side effect of creating the above positive culture is that you may have fewer ex-employees to keep in touch with because more people will love working for you. Nice problem to have.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Gold-man Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

     
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  • Next up: How to Make a Future-Proof Website

    How to Make a Future-Proof Website

    From focusing on evergreen content to investing in SEO, here are seven tips to creating a website that stands the test of time.

     

    If you do not want to completely re-imagine your website every time there are changes in technology, here are a few tips on how you can future-proof it.

    1. Focus on Evergreen Content
    Anyone visiting your website should draw value from the content. If not, they will check other sites that provide the information they need. For that reason, you should ensure that your website has evergreen content to remain relevant and offer the value that your audience is seeking.

    That means that you should refresh the content on your site often. Also, keeping in touch with industry trends and addressing customer pain points with the right content is the other way to ensure that your site has evergreen content throughout the year.

    2. Use WordPress as Your CMS
    As one of the most popular platforms worldwide, WordPress is an ideal Content Management System (CMS) that is versatile enough to help you build a range of digital experiences.
    Additionally, WordPress allows users to work with their online content with little to no coding knowledge. 

    Indeed, entrepreneurs need a system by which they can create, post, and update their online content, and that is what WordPress affords them. In that case, using WordPress as a CMS will not only reduce your expenses, it allows you to manage your content from a single platform.

    As such, you will not need to invest in several content management systems when you opt for WordPress, and that can act as a future-proof strategy.

    3. Prioritize User Experience and Speed
    Capturing your audience’s and clients’ attention and encouraging them to take action whenever they visit your website is a priority. Unfortunately, that is not achievable if your business site is not user-friendly.

    You also need to appreciate that all of Google’s algorithmic evolutions focus on giving users the best experience possible. That implies that any updates or changes you make on your website should prioritize users. Indeed, users are the reason behind making such an investment.

    Responsive design
    For example, most individuals use their mobile devices to access various websites today. So, if your site does not have a responsive design, it will affect the user experience.
    The solution here is to ensure that your website is compatible with mobile devices by adopting a responsive design.

    Site speed
    On the other hand, if your site is slow, users will probably opt out after a short time. In that case, sacrificing bells and whistles for speed may be a wise idea because it will ultimately improve the user experience.

    Intuitive hierarchy
    You should also consider creating an intuitive hierarchal flow to your website for easy navigation. Think of your site as a filing cabinet and design the hierarchy accordingly. This allows for easy additions to your website without having to redesign the entire site and URL structures—a tedious and expensive proposition.

    To that end, adding a site map to your website is required to promote easy navigation as part of your enhanced user experience initiatives. Implementing either or all of these approaches will, in turn, help your future-proof website thrive.

    4. Simplify Design and Coding
    The ability to make quick updates is paramount if you want your business site to be future-proof. When you overcomplicate your codebase, responding to your clients’ changing demands within the shortest time possible becomes a challenge. Cracking code that is hard to understand takes time, and if you cannot provide prompt solutions, you may lose clients to competitors.

    Additionally, having lean code and plugins will help with the load speed of the site as well—an¬¬ obvious benefit to your site users. It is worth mentioning that using personal shortcuts and shorthand when coding and creating your website is not an option. Also, hiring other designers and coders may be necessary as your enterprise expands. In that case, using clean code to allow straightforward interpretation by those who come after you, even as they add to what is already set up, is prudent.

    Simplifying your web design will also facilitate quick changes and updates when making necessary website adjustments. Clean code and a simple website design will go a long way toward making your business site future-proof.

    5. Consider Investing in Premium Hosting 
    In today’s world, speed is of the essence for any business using an online platform. Unfortunately, you can unintentionally lose your customers to competitors if your site is slow. No individuals will be willing to visit your website, let alone stay on the platform if speed is an issue.

    The solution here is opting for a premium hosting service. That way, your website will be fast enough to improve users’ experience, and it can turn visitors into customers as well. Increasing your website’s speed is an approach that can help you attract and retain traffic.

    6. Invest in SEO
    Any business worth its salt needs a steady flow of relevant traffic to its website. Ideally, this is accomplished by ranking high in search engine result pages for the keyword terms, goods, and services associated with your business.

    To accomplish this, you need to make sure your site is optimized for SEO. However, it’s important to realize that Search Engine Optimization or SEO is not a set-and-forget proposition.

    Technical SEO
    Foundationally, your site should be built optimized for SEO with the tips we mentioned above, such as lean coding, intuitive design, and site architecture, etc. SEO and User Experience (UX) go hand in hand.

    On-Page Optimization
    But it’s just as important to constantly be adding valuable content to your site that has been optimized for SEO as well. On-page optimization techniques will help this new content get found and rank well by the search engines.

    By doing so, you raise the probability that your content will be shared and earn valuable backlinks to your website.

    Backlink Building
    Speaking of backlinks, as a business you should always be trying to improve and build your website’s backlink profile. Links are the fuel that powers your website, therefore link building should be a core of your business interactions.

    Ongoing SEO initiatives such as these, to grow your relevant website traffic, are one of the best and economical ways to create a future-proof website for your business.

    7. Budget for Changes and Updates 
    Sometimes, you need to make prompt decisions as an entrepreneur, depending on the situation at hand. However, when making critical decisions about your business operations, you need to take time to consider various factors before deciding on the best course of action.

    For instance, if you intend to conduct an overhaul of your website, ensure your budget allows room for future updates and changes. Such a budget should focus on long-term aspects rather than short-term goals. Otherwise, you may end up spending more than necessary when you discover that there are new updates you need to factor in as soon as possible that did not feature in your previous budget.

    Additionally, budgeting allows you to spend a particular allocation on website changes and updates to ensure that you do not eat into the company resources you should direct elsewhere.
    Allowing room for site improvements in your long-term budget can help you make and implement decisions that will future-proof your website.

    Conclusion
    Change is inevitable in the technology arena. Since you cannot tell when you can expect new developments affecting online platforms, the solution is to ensure that you have a future-proof website by adopting the tips above.

    If you need more information or help to make your site future-proof, contact us today!

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.  

     
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  • Next up: BBB business tips: Inflation and your small business

    BBB business tips: Inflation and your small business

    If the recent rise in price for just about everything has you worried about your bottom line, check out these tips for minimizing the impact of inflation on your small business.

    The U.S. inflation rate is currently hovering at around 8%. This can cause a real problem for small businesses who have already had a challenging few years dealing with COVID-19, the Great Resignation, and more.  

    There are several factors contributing to higher inflation, including:

    Increased energy prices
    Supply chain disruptions
    Increased consumer demands
    Labor shortages and more

    >> RELATED: The Great Resignation: Finding opportunity in the challenge

    What does this all mean for small business owners? 

    This increase leads to more expensive raw materials used to make your products/services, which can lead to increased prices for goods and services. When prices rise, revenues and profits suffer. While you can’t do much about the price of materials, there are things you can do to help your business cope with the increased products and services. 

    Minimize the impact of inflation on your small business with these tips from BBB Serving Greater Cleveland: 

    1. Align your spending and business strategy

    To keep your small business competitive and minimize the impact of inflation on your bottom line, you must be intentional about where your business is spending its money. This means you'll want to investigate your current spending habits and determine if they align with your business strategy.

    For example, if you plan to focus on increasing sales in your next fiscal year, you may want to spend less on advertising at this time. It might also mean focusing your attention on promotions for specific products or services that are more likely to generate sales.

    2. Automate and streamline your processes

    One way to reduce the impact of inflation on your small business is to automate and streamline your processes where you can. Today’s technology allows small business owners to automate many of the tasks they perform, which may save you money in the long run.

    Streamlining can also help you reduce the amount of time spent on routine tasks, which in turn reduces the chance of making errors that increase your expenses. Finally, it could help you cut back on the rising cost of labor, which is currently another significant driver of inflation.

    3. Cut expenses where possible

    Reducing expenses is the most obvious way to cope with inflation. As the cost of goods and services used to make your products increases, you may find that you must reduce your operating expenses to keep your small business profitable.

    This can include cutting back on non-essential expenses, such as office supplies and marketing materials, or making strategic cuts to your budget where possible.

    For example, when aligning your spending to your business plan, you'll be able to identify what products and services are proving most profitable during this time. From there, you can reevaluate your offerings and temporarily cut certain expenses to better focus on the ones that are generating the best results.

    4. Stock up on necessary supplies while available

    Once you know what products and services to focus on, it’s also good to stockpile the necessary supplies used to make these products and perform your available services.

    This can prevent supply chain disruptions and help you avoid the costs associated with rising prices. For example, if you notice that a particular product is rising in price, you can purchase a larger quantity while available at a lower price. This way, you can avoid passing on the increased costs to your customers.

    >> RELATED: Read more by BBB Serving Greater Cleveland

    5. Raise prices wisely

    Unfortunately, during times of inflation, it's not uncommon for small business owners to increase prices on their products and services. This can be a difficult situation, but it's often necessary to avoid the impact of inflation on your bottom line.

    The key here is to raise your prices wisely. You don't want to increase your prices so much that it causes a significant percentage of your customers to purchase from your competitors. Instead, you want to raise your prices just enough to offset the impact of inflation and ensure that you can keep your small business profitable.

    For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.
     

     
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