This is the second article in our Relationship Mini-SeriesRespect. I call it “Staying on TRACK” for richer, more fulfilling relationships.  


“Respect” comes up in every discussion I have with clients when we explore relationship essentials.  It’s a quality we’re all looking for, yet from time to time we can all fall short of actually giving it to others. Respecting others, and expecting them to respect us, means being “tuned in” to what matters. What matters for me may be different to what matters for you.


And what is respectful in one company may be disrespectful in another, so your ability as a leader to read the cues and read in between the lines is an important skill.


So rather than making a list of how to build respect I like to ask my clients some simple questions. This helps them get clearer on how to be more respectful (and how to teach “more respectful) in their own cultures.


      How does respect show up in your organization? Where does respect show up?


What do you do to ensure that your customers feel respected?

           What do you do to let your employees know you respect them?

      Can you measure respect?


      What does respect look like?


      What do you do here to build and support it?


      Is there anything going on here that erodes it?


When I ask these questions in session, silence usually follows for a short while. Since I’m a tad pushy and quite insistent about my questions, people gradually loosen up and get real: 


“I think it’s disrespectful when meetings consistently start late.”

“I hate when my boss doesn’t look me in the eye when she speaks to me, it’s disrespectful.”


“When I’m a customer, I feel like companies have no respect for me or my time when I’m forced to navigate complicated automated phone systems.” 

“I feel disrespected when the technician talks down to me.”


An interesting theme always occurs in these discussions:  People seem to have an easier time identifying when they don’t feel respected than when they do. That’s okay, because we can use those thoughts as ‘contrast’ by flipping them over and rewording them, “I feel respected when meetings start and end on time.” When you get to this point, you are well on your way to discovering how to improve this critical element of relationship.


If there’s one thing I’ve learned in twenty-five years of consulting it’s that people feel respected when they feel listened to, when they feel the other party hears them with the intention of genuinely trying to understand the words and feelings being conveyed.


People feel respected when their concerns are taken into consideration, when their ideas are asked for and implemented. They feel respected when their privacy is valued and when they are acknowledged for a job well done.


People feel respected when we notice when they do things right and, if they do things wrong, they feel respected when those things are discussed in private without any blame, shame or judgment.


People feel respected when they are taken seriously, even if they are angry, and there is someone skillful in dealing with their anger or “upsetment.” People feel respected when you return their phone calls and RSVP when asked to. People feel respected when you look them in the eye and connect with them. People feel respected when you are courteous and polite. People feel respected when you speak to them like professionals – not children.


Feeling respected is a universal need in the workplace. It uplifts the human spirit and helps generate energy. It contributes to self confidence which in turn contributes to motivation and acceptance in a team. Teams can’t be sustained (or powerful) without mutual respect. To be respected on your team means to be trusted, heard, included, treated fairly. 


Respect is all about esteem and honor. Its Latin roots suggest that “respicere” really means to look again, or to look back at. I suggest that you take another look at the level of respect that your organization delivers to all the people with whom you come into contact – customers, co-workers and suppliers – and look again how you might improve your level of respect and improve the strength of your relationships.


It’s a great exercise for the whole team – and if you’re brave you’ll engage your customers and suppliers in the mix too. In a world that is becoming increasingly rude and abrasive your organization can stand out by delivering a five-star level of respect to each and every person you come in contact with – each and every time. Now there’s a competitive advantage!


With respect…

PS Most of us can’t even hear the word respect without hearing Aretha in our heads – so here you go .. sing along!



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