We’ve all heard the age old saying (probably from our Mum) that goes “Treat others how you’d like to be treated”. This little diddy probably got a lot of us through our younger years with a little less biting, hair pulling or name calling than may have otherwise been our natural instinct. But, is this thought process the right one to carry into our working careers as people managers and colleagues?

I would argue we need to flip it and reverse it and actually ‘treat others how they’d like to be treated’; because what you want doesn’t matter anymore! Okay, what you want still matters, but not when you are searching for how to reward, motivate or communicate with a peer or subordinate.

I was asked recently to share one tip for leaders on connecting with their team members individually. In that instance I did provide just one, but I wanted to give you three (how generous!) tools that you can use to make better connections, by thinking about the other person, rather than yourself.


Yes, you could go ahead and try to connect on something that you enjoy, but it’s going to be much more effective to do a little recon or detective work and figure out what the other person likes and use that! For example, you might notice that when they head to the vending machine for a 3:30 pick-me-up, they always choose a packet of Skittles. The next time you see them looking a bit down, or after they’ve smashed a piece of work, treat them to a bowl full of Skittles on their desk and see how that extra level of care takes the gesture up a notch!


The Love Languages Quiz is a great activity for self-awareness and awareness of others, obviously designed for romantic relationships, but I think also applicable to the workplace (bear with me).

The 5 love languages are: Quality Time, Positive Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts and Physical Touch.

I think we can all agree that physical touch in the workplace is a minefield that we’re best to steer clear of, but here’s some ideas about how to utilise the 4 remaining love languages with our team members.

Quality Time – take your team member out for coffee, or encourage the team to all take lunch at the same time to have some casual quality time together

Positive Affirmation – if you think they’ve done a great job, tell them. If you think their earrings are fun today, tell them. If you think they would be great to take on the next big project, tell them! Got it?

Acts of Service – Do something for them - help them with some of their menial tasks or make them a cuppa when they seem stressed.

Gifts – pretty self-explanatory, buy them a little something whether it is a personalised notebook, coffee cup or their preferred chai latte when they weren’t expecting it.

You can take the quiz here:


If stalking your team’s snack choices or asking them to do a quiz about love languages is all bit much for your workplace, then it’s okay to be pretty blunt and just ask! Whether that means that you put together a short questionnaire when people join your team to ask them ‘what is your biggest vice?’ or ,even more blatantly, ‘how do you like to be rewarded?’, or naturally work these questions into conversation along the way. Being able to make a note and refer to these down the track will mean your efforts are hitting the mark!

Treating others how you’d like to be treated is a good start, but going the extra step to tailor your communication and rewards to the other person really shows your commitment as a leader and is sure to boost engagement and productivity.

Written by
Kateena Mills