In the time of COVID-19, networking and business success depends not necessarily on following the Golden Rule. You’ll get further in the New Year with the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would want to be done to them.
Why does it matter? We’re all different, with different values, fears, strengths, beliefs, likes and dislikes. To best serve your clients, foster trust in your investors, bring out the best in your employees and connect with your colleagues, you’ll do well to understand these differences and keep them in mind in all you do.
Think about it: If you’re having a dinner party, you might want to serve a big juicy steak because you love steak. But if your guest is a strict vegetarian, they’re not going to enjoy the meal. Here are five ways to put the Platinum Rule in practice, and increase your odds of success, in your business endeavors.
1. Look for places to hold business meals outdoors. Business meals are still a great way to network, make, or close deals, or celebrate a colleague’s personal or work milestones. But for some folks, all that outdoor dining we did in 2020 may continue in 2021, whether for potential health benefits or because it’s simply a pleasure when it’s not too hot. Luckily, here in the Tampa Bay area, there are plenty of options to do just that and the weather allows for it nearly year-round.
2. Don’t insist on shaking hands. In the before times, the handshake was a must when meeting and greeting. But in 2020, we got away from that. And continued concerns about disease, and hygiene in general, means in 2021 more people may be taking a cue from other cultures and avoiding handshakes. If you’re comfortable shaking hands, let the other person make the first move. That will spare them the discomfort of having to reject your outstretched hand.
3. Offer online options for special events and business meetings. We’ve all gotten used to Zoom, Teams and WebEx meetings. There’s no reason to cast them aside in the New Year, regardless of what’s happening with the pandemic. In some ways, they’re an improvement over in-person gatherings. They’re easier to attend, meaning you can entice panelists and attendees from all around the world. Travel expenses and logistics don’t have to be a barrier. For many people, networking using technology is less intimidating. The protection of the computer makes it easier to open up. Not all meetings and events have to be virtual and they don’t have to be completely virtual. But use the Platinum Rule to gauge your audience and determine the best format.
4. Always keep a mask with you. For many people, masks became an essential accessory in 2020 and they’re not going to disappear in 2021. It’s a topic that has become political, but there’s no reason to let that interfere in your business interactions. If you prefer to wear a mask, wear it. If you generally don’t wear a mask, however, the Platinum Rule would dictate wearing one out of respect for your client, or colleague, if it’s important to them. There might be no faster way to tank a deal than ignoring that preference. You can avoid that pitfall by making a New Year’s resolution to always have a mask with you.
5. Avoid discussing strong feelings about the pandemic. Religion, and politics, are generally verboten in casual business conversation. And these days, saying you think we all still need to be on strict lockdown, or that COVID-19 was overblown, could be an insult. You don’t know what personal experiences an individual has had or what their attitudes are. Following the Platinum Rule and honoring another person’s attitudes is easiest if it’s just not discussed. If someone brings up their thoughts and you disagree with them, just simply say, “I hear you.”
This New Year is bringing with it a whole new world. Networking remains one of the basic building blocks of doing business. It’s a changing art, however, and the Platinum Rule offers an approach that increases your chances of success. ♦
Aakash Patel is the founder and president of Elevate, a strategic business consulting firm providing public relations, community relations, targeted networking and social media. Appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Patel serves as board chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County.