Find out what it means to me.” Aretha Franklin

There’s not much of it about these days

RESPECT, there’s not much of it about these days- hence the number of social and sports related campaigns, such as the RESPECT programme in football.

The ‘old order’ appears to be fading. The traditional forms of hierarchy and authority are changing. The respect that certain hallowed and venerated professions had, no longer have the same sheen and shine. Doctors, Teachers and now, of course, politicians, no longer command the admiration and respect they once had. Instantaneous information, 24 Hour news, the internet et al, proclaim to us in vivid detail that once respected figures are just as fallible as you and me.

In the work place, traditional hierarchical organisations are breaking down, because a pluralistic society with fresh new expectations and hopes demand fulfilment. We no longer trust the organisations we work for to have our welfare at heart. Organisations and managers use magic and mystical words to rationalise their actions. We are faced with endless swirling change; downsizing, reorganising and other euphemistic terms that replace good old fashioned honesty. You no longer have a ‘job for life’, or in some cases even one to begin your working sojourn. Loyalty is loftily talked about but rarely practiced either side of the working divide.

Yet respect is central to our self worth and being human. As we conduct courses and seminars throughout the country we ask delegates ‘what do you most want from others at work?’ Respect is the reply almost every time.

Lack of respect costs you

The unseen costs of lack of respect in the workplace include:

  • lack of company loyalty
  • decreased commitment
  • higher employee turnover
  • distrustful employees who are not as productive.

Small things chip away at respect, such as saying one thing and doing another, forgetting promises, and generating confusion. This sends the message that respect is not valued any more.

If individuals experience little or no respect they will tend to be less productive because they feel unsupported and do not believe what they are told. They therefore often do not listen or take time to validate what they have been told before they can believe it.

On the other hand

However, in places where everyone’s ideas and opinions are respected people are more likely develop and learn.

Individuals who respect the people they work with are

  • self-assured
  • open and honest
  • seek responsibility
  • willing to take risks
  • less resistant to change
  • inclined to act in a trustworthy manner.

Treating people with respect is empowering.

When people know that they will be given credit for their ideas and that sensitive information they share will be kept confidential, they are more inclined to discuss their creative ideas, personal goals and concerns.

Whether you are in a position of authority or not…..

Whether you are in apposition of authority or not, personal respect is important to all of us. Respect is an interpersonal experience. When it is present it is like a room full of oxygen allowing you to breathe and live. It is the behaviour of not only leaders in the organisation but we are all responsible for determining the level and amount of respect.

Leaders within an organization cannot expect respect from their employees solely because of their status or position. Respect is something you earn not by talking about and having high ideals but by behaving in a way that demonstrates it.

Leaders because of their positional power have extra accountability for creating a climate of respect.. If you are a manger/leader you might consider that not everyone will like you or love you but everyone can respect you – and that may be a far greater accolade.

We can all demonstrate respect with simple, yet powerful actions. It is free to the organization and everyone in it. It is the little things, which add up, that help earn and maintain respect.

1. Know who you are – a consistent sense of purpose

In order to respect others you need first to respect your self and what you stand for. Are you known as someone who is positive and enjoyable to be around or generally avoided and left alone because you invariably see the bad in most situations and people?

Are you seen as someone who takes initiatives and responsibility rather then bemoaning what is not right or not happening but has no suggestions or ideas of how to put it right?

Giving respect doesn’t require you to be a paragon of virtue but your values have to be lived and be consistent through good and bad times. We all know who our friends are in good times but it’s the bad times that establish who are fair weather friends and who are not. People don’t respect someone who is like a reed in the wind, chopping and changing when the wind blows. You need to be consistent and persistent in who you are and what you stand for. What is your sense of purpose and values?

2. Communicate and tell the truth

Being dishonest is the easiest way to lose respect. If you don’t know the answer, say so. If you have a tough question, ask it. If you say you’re going to do something, do it, or provide an update as to why you can’t. It is the little things, which add up, that help earn and maintain respect.

Demonstrate basic honesty and keep to your values. A person of character is respected because they do the right thing by you even though they are not obligated in some way to do so.

Keep confidences but do not keep harmful secrets or hidden agendas that isolate and alienate your colleagues or staff. Share information openly and others will open up to you. We seem to withhold information from people who seem to withhold information from us.

Keep your promises or don’t promise at all. This is important not only in the sense of telling the truth but of managing other’s expectations. Sometimes we may allow these expectations to grow unchallenged because it suits us to do so. However, the inevitable disappointment if they are not realised leads to, disenchantment, resentment and a loss of respect.

Learn to say no assertively so people know where you stand, what you are willing and not willing to do, how much you can help them and how much they need to help themselves. Negotiate not my way or your way but a better way. If you live without boundaries anything will do. And so what do you stand for?

As a leader

  • share good and bad information alike. There may be times, far less than you think, when you can’t share information but say so and give reasons. If you withhold information, respect deteriorates and is invariably seen as patronising, slippery and causes resentment. People are not fools – they probably sense the truth anyway.
  • a way for people to get to know you as human being is to share good and bad information about yourself – they will probably warm to you and feel you are real.
  • encourage an open door policy so that your staff can talk to you about issues and concerns and gives them the opportunity to understand you and how you think.

3. Be competent in your job

Nothing sells quite like success and being competent at what you do is proof that you can be trusted and respected – develop your talent and skills. We all put faith in people who display confidence and expertise in doing their job.. We allow ourselves to be influenced by them as they have consistently proved they know what they are talking about and what they do. We listen to them, give them space and time and we think of them as experts. They in turn feel good about themselves and are rewarded by the recognition we give.

Take the initiative to excel in your job whether your company supports your efforts or not. Remember few people will deny you help if you ask for it respectfully. Don’t be backward in coming forward – whose life is it anyway?

If you are a manager, you will have spent years developing your competency in your specific trade or discipline. Now is the time to develop your competency in your ability to manage! It may have taken 5 years plus to master your trade, why would it not take a similar timescale and journey to become a better leader? Staff rarely put their confidence in incompetent managers, even if those managers are fair and caring.

As a leader

  • develop the talent and skills of your staff – be interested in their growth and maturity as individuals. Encourage them to take and give responsibility. Challenge those who want to be challenged with stretching goals and make people accountable for their results and actions.
  • remove uncertainty and ambiguity when you communicate clearly what you expect from your staff – use SMART objectives to identify success and build self confidence in their achievements.
  • a key barometer of how competent you are as a manager is how and when you face up to difficult decisions and situations, poor performance or conflict between individuals or teams. Confronting these difficult situations takes honesty, openness, and courage, but it will ultimately bring respect and people closer together. Confronting issues early when they are mole hills prevent them from becoming mountains.

4. Demonstrate you value yourself and others

We are not units of production. We are individuals with our own unique, idiosyncratic foibles and charms. We are social animals who crave recognition and want to be noticed. All of us can praise the good we see in others and give constructive feedback in ways that are helpful for those things we do not do so well. Indeed, it’s unlikely that our views are respected or admired for only giving praise or for only being critical. Our credibility is measured by being able to do both.

Praise much more frequently than you criticise. We are quick to notice fault but slow to praise. Most of what we do is done well and goes unnoticed. What we do wrong is discussed in detail. So seed a work place where you celebrate what people do well. See the greatness in those around you and others will warm to you. You might also remember your boss is human too.

Maintain the simple courtesies of life: never insult people, name call, put down their ideas or criticise them in public.

Listen to what others have to say before expressing your own views – seek first to understand and then be understood. Testing your understanding of what people have said is an effective way to show that you have listened and understood. Refrain from speaking over, butting in or finishing other peoples’ sentences.

As a leader

  • encourage others to give their opinions and ideas before giving your own. Use people ideas and give them the credit for their initiatives and good work. Communicate this to others so that also can value the work. Allow those people who think of the initiatives to implement their suggestions.
  • be loyal to your staff and through your actions show that you are willing to protect and defend them when they make mistakes. This is particularly relevant when they are learning or trying something new or innovative or going through periods of disruption and change. Walk the extra mile for your people. Defend them when necessary and represent them with vigour and commitment when you are representing their views to those higher up the food chain.
  • empower your staff to take on greater responsibility and give them the authority and resources to succeed. Standing still really means falling behind.
  • delegate aspects of the job that will develop your staff’s as opposed to delegating jobs you don’t like or are tedious to do. Delegation requires a great deal of trust and respect and is not an end in itself but a process to greater achievement. If you are not able to delegate the whole task select elements that can be tackled first and gradually start coaching them. Agree monitoring points so that you are able to praise and reward their effort and correct mistakes before they become a problem.

5. Do as you would be done by and treat others as equals

It is understandable that we may like some people more than others. But each person whether we like them or not deserve the same degree of respect. Treat people with courtesy, politeness and kindness who ever they may be, the CEO or the Office Junior.

As a leader

  • manage your time and others time in equal measure of importance. Conduct meetings that have an agenda and objectives. Manage the time as if it were precious and set time limits. Focus on achievement, effective communication and time management.
  • be a role model for turning up on time no matter whose meeting or problem solving discussion it is.
  • make decisions that are fair and consistent and have no favouritism.

In conclusion

As the Beatles sang: money can’t be me love and neither can it buy respect. You can’t buy it and you can’t demand it, but when you have it you can do anything.

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