A Business Technology Place

Making Respect Part of the Culture

The word respect is so common in company core values that I wonder if it’s become ubiquitous.  How do we define respect? Is it treating people kindly, helping those in need, and recognizing the contributions of others? Most certainly. But the challenge is, these are surface level behaviors and don’t create lasting impact for the organization or individuals. If something is a core value, I would expect to find it deeply embedded in the thinking, behaviors, and expectations for a company.

Giving respect to others is a key component for molding the culture of an organization. It requires more than periodic displays of kindness. Respect is way harder than that, but so much more powerful. Respect requires a willingness to change an opinion. It requires admitting others may have more knowledge about a situation. It requires collaboration.  Respect is sustained actions and involvement of employees in continuous improvement and problem solving.

Listen with an open mind

Employees on the front-line of work notice weaknesses in product and solution delivery. Why do we so often discredit them because of their position or because their thoughts don’t fit the corporate narrative? Listening to others with an open mind and not having predetermined answers shows respect because it creates meaningful dialogue. When we seek to understand the viewpoint of others, we risk opening our minds to alternate solutions. But we also show the other person that we care about understanding their view point. Respect is two-way communication.

I’ve have ongoing dialogue with employees about the work-from-home policy. I can tell you I have a different opinion than they do about the right balance of office and home days. But I’m trying to be open to dialogue that centers more around work output and uninterrupted flow. I know we’ll reach a better solution with common understanding and approach.

Participate together in problem solving

An ultimate sign of respect is to involve employees in solving problems. Jim Womack describes it this way in an article respect for people:

“Over time I’ve come to realize that this problem solving process is actually the highest form of respect. The manager is saying to the employees that the manager can’t solve the problem alone, because the manager isn’t close enough to the problem to know the facts. He or she truly respects the employees’ knowledge and their dedication to finding the best answer. But the employees can’t solve the problem alone either because they are often too close to the problem to see its context and they may refrain from asking tough questions about their own work. Only by showing mutual respect – each for the other and for each other’s role – is it possible to solve problems, make work more satisfying, and move organizational performance to an ever higher level. “

This is a great example of driving respect into the culture through sustained actions rather than kind gestures. It shows respect for employee’s insights and skills. It creates a framework for employees to directly impact their work cells and production output. When an employee and team are part of creating a solution they feel more pride and accomplishment.  

Accepting constructive feedback

What we do with feedback from others is an indicator for how we respect them. If we dismiss feedback we could be overlooking an opportunity for improvement. If we take feedback personally we are telling employees not to be honest. If we retaliate against feedback by taking actions against an employee, then we create distrust in the organization.

In my career, I’ve had a manager question my ability to make a decision after I told them I thought they were showing signs of micromanaging. I’ve had a manager tell me I wasn’t onboard with the corporate strategy after I cautioned about moving too fast without understanding risks to business disruption. In both cases, trust was broken between the manager and I and I believe a lack of respect was present. They chose not to engage in dialogue, but to dismiss my feedback as insubordinate.

Learn together  

True learning involves sharing results with employees and guiding them in processes to problem solve for additional improvements. Learning is completing a cycle of plan-do-check-act and acting upon the results. When a group of people realize that continuous improvement is really about becoming a learning organization, then a cultural transformation is underway.

On my team, one way we’ve been learning together is by establishing visual metrics that align to our mission. We review the metrics weekly and discuss impact to our service delivery. Over time, we’ve adjusted the metric or even created a new metric as we’ve learn more by examining results. Growing together creates strong culture. Everyone sees progress and everyone feels setbacks.

In summary I would say respect is more than this –

Rather it’s best characterized by this –


Onward and upward!

A note to self

Dear me,

Don’t be quick to discount new ideas. All improvements for humanity and business started with a new idea. Someone saw opportunity and imagined a better result, a stronger product, or a faster way. Someone acted and made their opportunity a reality. They were not afraid of failure. They overcame doubts. They made peace with uncertainty.

Why?

Because their image of a better result made failures look like stepping stones to success.

Because the promise of a stronger product made doubting look like an admission to defeat.

Because the benefits of doing it faster outweighed the results of the status quo.

So give new ideas a chance. Challenge the status quo. Dream a little.

Keep moving onward and upward!

Sincerely,

Me

Those two big things

I watched Groundhog Day (Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell) with the kids to start 2013. I remember watching the movie when it was in the theaters. My birthday is February 2, so naturally the movie was a must see. I hated it when I first saw it. The movie script finally annoyed me about ½  of the way through. I think I was annoyed by the time loop as much as the main character Phil Connors.

Are driving your life in the right direction?

Are driving your life in the right direction?

But watching the movie again tonight, almost 20 years later, I had a different perspective. I told the kids that Phil was reliving the day until he got it right. Phil ends his time loop when he realizes he needs to improve himself by helping others through service and by continually learning more.

That sounds like a good recipe for a new beginning and a new year. Better than resolutions, which we may forget by the end of January, is a more fundamental goal to continue learning and to serve others. If you’re like me, your best memories and your most important interpersonal growth come from learning and service events.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”

Don’t sit still. It’s 6am, and a new year. Go make yourself better.