Respect

By Travis Kemp

It’s one of those complicated terms that is etched into our psyche at a very young age…

Respect

It’s usually referred to in relation to ‘elders’, the law, authority, ‘years of service’, ‘experience’, your parents (grand, uncles and aunts included) or your ‘boss’.

Of course, like most ‘simple values’, it’s actually infinitely more complex than that…

… and unfortunately, it’s often inaccurately defined as;

“You demonstrating the behaviour that makes my life easier and smoother by agreeing with me and doing what I’m telling you to do, when I tell you to do it, without asking me hard questions or pushing-back and making sure you meet my needs without me feeling confronted, hassled, incompetent or wrong”

Hence, many managers have a hard time making sense of this complexity… but a couple of clarifications might help…

No, politeness doesn’t mean respect… It provides the illusion of it…

No, compliance doesn’t mean respect… It hides the absence of it…

No, absence of conflict doesn’t mean respect… It suffocates authenticity and creativity

No, flattery and sycophancy  aren’t respect… These are the currency of a fear-driven culture

Actually, Respect is much like Trust in many ways… You can grant it and you can earn it…

When you grant it, and those to whom you’ve granted it to fail to honour it, it’s lost… and very difficult to find again…

On the other hand, when it’s earned, a single dis-respectful act can cause irreparable damage to it…

Mediocre Managers rely on the post-industrial economy’s structural solution to building respect; the organisational chart. 

With this tool in hand, Managers who were incapable, incompetent  or simply not interested in building and nurturing respect were protected by a safety net; The management hierarchy.

But in today’s connection economy, we’ve moved on from the reductionist and simplistic view of the organisation being a rigid structure.

Leaders understand that earning respect takes time… and that it’s demonstrated through their authentic behaviour over time… it’s built through engagement… by doing what you say you’re going to do, demonstrating integrity, courage, consistency, skill and knowledge, sound judgement and transparency…

Most importantly, it is only sustainable when it is reciprocal

Unlike the fear-driven Managers of old, great Leaders in the connection economy nurture generative conflict… they encourage their people to be outspoken; to challenge the hierarchy; to be irreverent and question what they don’t believe…

Anxious Leaders avoid this at all cost…

If you need to resort to pulling rank, shouting orders, disciplining your people and giving directives to gain respect, you lost it a long time ago…

…and here’s a tip… the behaviour you’re demonstrating is not (and was never) worthy of respect anyway…

If you’re a Manager who relies on your “title”, your “seniority” or your “years of service” to get it; you never had it and never will…

It takes courage, humility, fallibility, humbleness and wisdom, together with a strong commitment to take a long hard look at yourself every day, warts and all… to truly build respect…

If that’s too hard, it may be time for you to consider a career change…