People who understand the complexities of the human spirit recognize that respect is the glue that holds relationships together. Mutual respect between two people promotes the affirmation and appreciation people need to work well together, accomplish things and feel fulfilled. An organization of fulfilled people is an organization positioned to reach its full potential.
The need for respect is seen by many as so critical that it is considered a right. People generally believe that everyone has the basic right to be shown respect. From experience we know that a culture depends on people living in mutual respect to function beneficially.
This general right of respect is one of two types of respect, as described by management professor Kristie Rogers in the 2018 Harvard Business Review article, Do Your Employees Feel Respected?. “Owed Respect”, as she calls it, is the respect all people deserve, out of decency and consideration for others. We owe this to each other, and leaders owe it to their people.
This kind of respect is shown by leaders intermingling with their people, expressing interest in them, getting to know them. It tells people that they are worth knowing and worthy of caring. Things as simple as showing courtesy or helpfulness are basic respectful acts. When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, we explore how they compliment and encourage employees. It makes such a difference in tearing down status walls and treating people as partners, not subordinates.
Asking your people for their ideas, feedback and perspectives communicates that they are valuable. Include them in updates, meetings or news. Show them they are respected as part of the team by treating them like teammates.
A powerful way a leader can respect their people is to brag about them to other colleagues or leaders. Support them and cover their backs. There’s no greater display of respect from a leader.
Leaders who take the time to thank their people offer genuine respect. This can be done personally or through an email, phone call or a hand-written note. The effect is amazing.
The second type of respect is performance-based. Rogers calls this “Earned Respect”. This goes beyond what’s generally owed to people and recognizes accomplishments or acquired skills.
It’s not necessary to distinguish between small, medium or large accomplishments: recognize them all! Let your people hear about the things you appreciate. Some examples of a person’s accomplishments you could inform your staff about include:
- Gaining extra qualifications through training or a degree
- Solving a difficult problem
- Completing a long project that will benefit the organization
- Favorable comments from customers or coworkers
- Suggesting a better process, procedure or cost-saving idea
- A promotion or higher levels of responsibility
You can make these recognitions count even more in one-on-one time, with performance reviews and planning future personal goals. Document their accomplishments and your appreciation. Give some people the opportunity to train others or be a mentor to a younger coworker. Where appropriate, train employees to be leaders. Leaders who demonstrate trust in employees’ potential and efforts convey great respect.
These activities set a tone in your culture that performance, engagement, accountability and respect are highly valued. Consistency is critical. Picking and choosing which accomplishments to acknowledge looks like favoritism, and even if this isn’t the intention it will appear to be. Spread the respect equally and frequently. In return, hold everyone accountable for good work, and trust them to do it.
A respectful culture, established and fostered by the leader, is the most powerful means to run an effective, prosperous and dynamic organization.
As a leader, how do you demonstrate respect for your employees? Do you demonstrate Owed Respect more than Earned Respect? Do you have experience(s) where you’ve used one or the other, or both kinds of respect to engage and motivate your employees? I’d love to hear about them. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.