Monday, January 12, 2009

Leadership 101: Want Respect? Give Respect.

Respect is a crucial thing in any relationship, whether it's personal or professional. Furthermore, it’s like a currency that you can’t afford to spend, ever. The respect your team has for you helps drive your team to do their utmost; lose that respect and it will take you an incredibly long time to earn it back. In some cases, you may not be able to recover lost respect.

By far the worst boss I ever worked for had utterly zero clue on how to treat his subordinates with respect. He'd curse at them, berate them, patronize them, and just be outright insulting to them – all the while micromanaging every aspect of work that was accomplished around him. I got large doses of his patronizing, insulting behavior, but somehow he understood to never cross the line of cursing at me. I can be foul mouthed myself, but that's never directed at another person, and I won't stand for people cursing at me.

As a result, this boss was feared by some and in my case outright hated, but never respected. His workers did their jobs for him, but he never got the maximum out of his people because they were too browbeaten to show initiative (others, not me), or too pissed off to focus on broader goals (me!).

Ted Gracey, a British expatriate I met while living and working in Germany, spent a long number of years serving in the British armed forces. Ted was a wise fellow who once told me a great jem: "You get respect by giving respect."

How utterly true.

You can't force people to respect you; you've got to earn it. You earn respect through your integrity at what you do, and you earn respect fastest when you freely give respect away to others around you.

Respect your team by being honest with them, even when the news is bad. Respect your team by looking to them for answers to your business problems and goals. Respect your team by listening to their opinions, let them know you've heard the opinions, and share when you're not able to go with those opinions. Respect your team by giving them the freedom to accomplish a goal by their own means, even if that means is a different way than what you'd choose. It's what you get done, not how. (Unless we're talking single classes with 3,000 lines of hand-written code and a cyclomatic complexity of 500. In that case, the how does matter.)

Fear isn't respect. Respect isn't mandated. Fail to treat others with respect and you’ll never get it yourself. Give respect out freely and it will come back to you in spades.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.


Arnulfo Wing said...

in one of the episodes of Star Trek NG, they said a phrase that resonates a lot with me: "...My respect is earned, not given..."

Great series of leadership posts.!

thanks for sharing them.


Unknown said...

Fear is a form of respect, but it lasts only until fear leaves the room.
That is from Parenting 101.
- blindman

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