Who defines respect?

Photo of a hand writing RESPECT in blue markerRespect is a key element of trust. It’s impossible to trust someone you don’t respect.

(I’d argue it is possible to respect someone you don’t trust, but that’s a whole different conversation.)

As leaders, we can say we respect our people – but – news flash – what we think or say doesn’t matter.

What does matter is what they experience.

Respect is in the eye of the beholder. Respect is part of their experience interacting with you.

This treads dangerously close to something a long-ago manager said to me: perception is reality. I hated that statement, but sadly, it’s true.

If you want to lead, if you want to influence your team, if you want to guide them through change, or in any other situation for that matter, you have to start by respecting them. And it has to be their perception that you respect them.* You need to earn it, just as you need to earn their trust.

Without respect, you can boss them around, steamroll them, issue orders and micromanage, but it will be an uphill struggle to actually, sincerely, lead them

A team member who feels respected and who in turn respects you will give 110 percent. One who doesn’t feel respected, and therefore doesn’t respect you, won’t be as responsive.

After all – would you be?

*Yes, it’s true that there are people who are disrespectful, and who, for whatever reason, are defensive and unlikely to let themselves experience respect. This is part of what I call the “endless fuzzy gray area of leadership.” And it can be a no-win situation; there are people who simply may not belong on your team. Not everyone is a fit for every organization (to quote Captain Obvious).

Curious how to foster mutual respect? Drop me a note through my contact form and we’ll set a time to talk!