So that may not be completely accurate, but it feels so good to operate in a respectful environment. Nothing is more empowering than knowing your boss, associates, and reports understand each others’ contributions and each are treated accordingly. This article is meant to relay the impact of respect or disrespect. I have included three practices that have helped me to increase my respect for others: asking questions, listening, and expanding ones understanding. Respect is a key component to a happy, healthy life. It is important that we all get better at it.
There are so many “Top Ten” lists about companies that create inclusive and respectful environments. They tell you about how the CEO has a face to face meeting with every employee; every space has natural light; and the snacks are free. Most of the things good companies do boil down to respect for every individual. We all read these lists and start to plan how we are going to rewrite the old resume to get a job at one of those companies. It was during one of my own resume rewrite sessions that I started to consider hiring a professional coach to help me get the best content and look. Then I started to think of the first time I worked with a professional on my resume. It wasn’t a good experience.
This was years ago. Picture a young, eager MBA candidate getting ready to conquer the world with all of my grand, new ideas about managing people and marketing channels, etc. I was also still working on hard surface flooring jobs to make ends meet. In college, my most lucrative job was stone, wood and tile work on floors and walls and sometimes ceilings. Many friends and acquaintances would ask me to trade services with them because trading services can be a very good deal for all involved. One of these trades was offered by a coworker of a friend. They wanted stone floors and shower in the bathroom.
This man that I only knew a little was willing to “be my helper” and his wife (an HR professional) would also help me with my resume if I would lower my price substantially. The deal didn’t go well because I didn’t get enough information about the product I was getting in return for my services (by the way helping a professional with a task usually leads to more work for the professional) and they didn’t fully respect the service that I was providing. The same can be said daily in many offices and shop floors around the world. We draw dividing lines based on our predetermined assumptions of managers, assemblers, suppliers, buyers, lawyers, etc.
If you lay down a blanket statement about a group of people chances are you are wrong. (Unless your blanket statement is something like: “all those baseball players play baseball” or “all of the people in that house fire should get out of the house to avoid the risk of heat and smoke exposure”.)
You should respect the person with whom you are dealing no matter what you think they are worth or who you think they are. In fact, I will say that we (all of us) underestimate the worth of people constantly. It is so easy to do because we don’t see their whole life or experiences. We don’t understand what they went through for their expertise and wisdom. Just showing your respect to another person won’t increase your understanding of their value and wisdom.
You can’t ever get a full picture of an individual. But if you show that they are worth something to you you will build a more productive relationship. There are some simple things you can do to develop more respect for associates, leaders, or the general population of your daily interactions.
Ask questions – asking will expand your understanding, but it will also show the person you ask that you care enough to ask. With direct reports this is clearly productive because people want to be understood. You don’t need to know everything, so don’t try. People don’t often have the courage to speak up. If you are a leader then you need to take the lead of any conversation and ask questions. Remember the keys to good conversation from the Dale Carnegie book you have all committed to memory by now? The best conversationalists ask a question then let you talk.
Listen carefully – have an intention to understand the contributions of the people around. After you ask a question it only makes sense to listen to the answer. Understand what it costs for someone to give what you are asking for. I’d like to know how successful people interact with people around them. How do they learn from others? I have managed no more than 18 people at one time and I relied heavily on the input I got from each individual. Success has had a deep relationship with my listening skills. I used to asked Bob Fiorentini all kinds of questions about his career, his background, his education and skill development. He has accomplished so much in his career, so it was great to be his direct report for a couple of years. If you listen well everyone becomes a mentor.
Expand your understanding – Social media and internet news headlines are consistently proving that we tend to focus on our own world and opinions. Get out of that mindset and see what is going on around you. Pick any politically divisive issue and look at the other side. You don’t have to accept or believe what the other side is arguing, but the more you know the more productive you’ll be. I recently heard that the average CEO reads three books a month. I probably read that on LinkedIn so now we all read three books a month. If that’s the case pick some subjects that are outside your comfort zone. Learn something new. My daughter reads six or eight books a month about wizards and tribal cats and demigods but it is a habit that will lead to much more (she will own your company some day so be ready).
If you can develop respect for each person you interact with you can improve your awareness and open your skill set. Just as important, the individual with which you are interacting will feel respected and this will create a sense of empowerment that will boost productivity and wellbeing because it feels so good to operate in a respectful environment. My purpose here is to relay the impact of respect or disrespect. Asking questions, listening, and expanding ones understanding will increase your own capability to respect others. Respect is a key component to a happy, healthy life not a component to attaining the “C-suite”. People are worth more than you think they are. Make sure you let them know you get that.