From public praise to pretty please, how to gain respect

First published June 22, 2012

Published by The Nashville Business Journal

Everyone wants respect. And if you are in a leadership role, earning that respect is very important to your long-term success. The people who work for you will produce more and do more for you when they respect you. So how do you earn respect? Here are a few tips:

• Praise in public. Make a big deal of individual or team achievements. Celebrate success in every way you can: give awards, tell success stories, post signs and brag to the boss about your people.

• Criticize in private. Discuss difficulties with the door closed. Taking one of your team members to task in front of others is a fast path to losing respect.

 Respect others’ time. Don’t just barge in on another employee. Set appointments for discussions. Try starting a friendly, direct phone conversation with “I need to discuss XYZ, and I need 10 minutes of your time. Is now a good time? If not, when can we schedule a call?”

 Take charge. If you are in charge of a meeting, seek suggestions by circulating the agenda ahead of time. Link agenda topics to timeframes and stick to them. Provide any other handouts in advance or at the end of the meeting, not during it. End early (at least sometimes), and everyone will love you.

• Own up to screw-ups. When you make a mistake, apologize quickly and sincerely. Don’t procrastinate. Everyone knows you screwed up so it’s best to just admit it and move on.

• Lead proactively. If someone else makes a mistake, first find out what went wrong and then seek ways to solve the problem in a constructive way. Don’t ask who screwed up. If there is a performance issue you can handle that later behind closed doors.

• Remember your Ps and Ts. Regular and sincere use of the most important words in our vocabulary — please and thank you — can go a long way toward earning respect from everyone you communicate with.

• Share everything. There is no upside to keeping anything of significance hidden from your team. Make it clear from the start that you are a no-secrets leader, and keep the lines of communication wide open going forward.

These are just a few suggestions. Earning respect requires a massive dose of common sense. Treat people as you would like to be treated. Communicate as you would like to be communicated with. Act respectfully — and be respected in return.

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  1. Great leadership advice, especially related to “own up to screw-ups”. The power of an apology goes along way with a leaders direct reports.

  2. Not much here with which to disagree. I would add one thing, however. I stopped apologizing years ago – except for the most trivial of oversights. Instead, I began making amends. For significant screw-ups, instead of “I’m sorry”, I began asking “I did XYZ. How can I make this right?” We’ve gone as far as to weave this practice into your company culture. “When you screw it up, clean, it up!”

    We’re all human. We all make mistakes. The measure of a person and, by extension, the organization is not in not making mistakes, but how own them and them then make things right.

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