The Golden Rule and The Ice Cream Rule for Leaders

“Everything is better with ice cream!”  It’s The Ice Cream Rule.  Ice creae is tasty and research shows ice cream boosts brain power.  Let’s  apply the rule immediately; grab a bowl of ice cream  and enjoy loving spoonfuls as we discuss The Golden Rule.


The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”   Socialized with The Golden Rule, we negotiated our way through elementary school squabbles, but how as effective leaders in a complex, quickly changing world does it apply?  How should we really treat others?


Dr. William Glasser’s research identified that all human have the same basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.  We assign individual values to fulfilling each need and the values may change depending on our life circumstances at any given time.  The pursuit of happiness is how we go about fulfilling our needs in a legal and moral fashion. And we want the world to respect us and allow us the opportunity to do so.  The desire for respect is universal.  Therefore, let’s restate The Golden Rule:  “Respect others as you would have them respect you.”


It would be easy arithmetic if what we deemed respectful would fit everyone’s concept of respect.   But simple arithmetic doesn’t work in  our current work environment.  We have multiple generations, races, ethnicities, religions, physical and mental abilities, and genders and gender identities in our workspaces.  When we further unpack the situation, our work teams and clients come from different educational, socio-economical, and life experiences.  


Our individual definitions of respect are  limited.  Our individual geographical location, our born or acquired identities, or our life experiences shape how we define respect.  Like vanilla represents one flavor of ice cream, our individual definitions of respect is only one representation of respect.   Others who grew up where we did or have similar life experiences may share our perspectives as there is a collective vanilla ice cream lovers.  However, as plenty of people don’t love vanilla ice cream, plenty of people don’t view respect the same way we do.  Therefore, what we intend to respectful may be offensive. Baskin-Robins originally had 31 flavors; Respect has at least that many permutations. 


Realizing the our limited understanding of respect, we can choose to expand our awareness and understanding so we can better operate in global market or more diverse workplaces.  To expand our awareness and understanding of what respect looks like and means to others, we choose to be curious, and then:

  1. We invite conversation and share information. 
  2. We try new experiences or interactions. 
  3. We listen and suspend our value judgements. 
  4. We try make sense of it all.  We attempt to synthesize  what we know and what we learned into a wider perspective from which we can operate respectfully with others.  
  5. We correct and adjust as needed. 


Let’s use workplace design as sample exercise.  In designing our  work spaces, what should be the design of the restrooms, the height of customer service windows, parking, the break areas, the selection of arts and artifacts to show respect for the races, ethnicities, religions, ages, abilities, and genders that provide and receive services in the space?   What does respect look like when all the people come together to work in this shared space?  Even if we cannot change some more permanent items, what can we do now in the space we are in to demonstrate respect for our teams and clients? Perhaps, we post signage in multiple languages, create lactation rooms, or even update artwork.  

As leaders, we incorporate lead our organization’s delivery of services and values.   We ensure our organizations treat employees and others with respect.  We learn what respect looks like from our teams and clients’ perspectives.  We ignite the change and start the conversation.  And, we remember the importance of ice cream.

Published by Coach2Zen

Leader. Facilitator. Inspiring minds and building a leadership community by sharing skills and talents with Zen, the presence of balance, equanimity.

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