Get No Respect? Maybe You Could Try Giving It First

Published by The Nashville Business Journal

Respect is a value often ignored in life—and business. Many of us run at a break-neck pace without giving much thought to the lives of those around us. But the simple values of consideration, thoughtfulness and respect are essential elements to good leadership and healthy companies.

Respect works mutually. If you treat co-workers with respect it is likely they will treat you this way in return, creating the foundation for a successful and productive relationship. However if you treat an employee poorly, that person may still work for you, but will probably remain suspicious and may not support you when you need it most.

Here are some other business areas in which respect plays a key role:

Office communication: Rule No. 1: Keep no secrets. Keeping employees in the dark about business issues or fostering a secretive, untrustworthy work environment will only result in less productive employees who, fittingly, won’t be willing to be team players. Open communication builds trust and respect among all people. The more we share the more we can trust, which ultimately encourages team members to work together in the spirit of cooperation and accomplishment.

Employee engagement: Support for any mission increases as team members know more about the task at hand. And valued, engaged team members are your most powerful assets. Ask opinions, discuss options and generally include each person as much as possible in the work plan. The greater the initial involvement, the more support and commitment the mission will receive, resulting in a better chance for success.

Verbal courtesy: Simply using “please” and “thank you” can go a long way in building respect. If someone gives you a pat on the back for a job well done, acknowledge that person by responding with a humble thank you. Likewise, if you make a mistake have the courage to say, “I messed it up” and apologize. Whether a situation is positive or negative, honest and sincere communication goes a long way in earning you greater respect.

Meetings and conference calls: Set the agenda, share it, stick to it, and you will encourage each attendee to be a productive member of the team. When you end a meeting or conference call on time, you have shown respect for everyone’s time in a very simple way. However if you allow the meeting or call to move off the agenda and run late, you have at once disrespected a group’s time and undermined its efforts.

Communications devices: Blackberries, blueberries, cell phones … they all have a place in the business world. But you show respect by using these devices with discipline at appropriate times—and, respectfully, you all know what those should be. In case you forgot, it’s disrespectful to use your device in a meeting, during a conference call or in the middle of a conversation with someone.

Returning correspondence: It is just good manners to return phone calls and emails promptly. If someone takes the initiative to write or call you they deserve a response. If it is a salesperson, take the time to explain not now, later or never. A failure to respond can quickly lower other people’s opinion of you.

Personal time: Effective leaders consistently show respect for each individual’s personal time. No one should be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week—and everyone should be entitled to communications-free vacations. Organizations can foster this mutual respect by clearly defining expectations regarding staffs’ availability and really adhering to those standards.

Respect for each individual’s time, talent and character can make a huge difference in a company’s productivity as well as interpersonal relationships in and out of the office.

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