How Do You Spell R-E-S-P-E-C-T as a Leader?

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T….Find out what it means to me.”
Aretha Franklin

The value of respect has been a subject of the news lately, featuring rapper Kanye West and congressman Joe Wilson.

John Spence just wrote a guest post for Great Leadership on the most important skills needed by global leaders, respect being one of them.

If you were to take a look at 100 corporate value statements, I guarantee you’d find the word “respect” on at least 90% of them. Respect usually ends up high on the list of those “what do employees value most” lists. Every wants and deserves a little respect at work, especially from our leaders.

So what does it mean to show respect as a leader?

R = Relationships. Do you have a transactional relationship with your employees? That is, you pay them X dollars, and they give you Y amount of work? Are they just another “human resource” to you? Or have you taken the time to cultivate a relationship, based on mutual respect and support?

E = Everyone counts, no matter who they are, at any level in the organization. Great leaders don’t selectively dole out respect, in a way that serves their own agendas. Want to judge the true character of a leader? Watch how they treat the cleaning people. I’ll never forget looking out the window and seeing the CEO of my former company in the parking lot, with the building’s cleaning crew gathered around him. While I couldn’t hear the conversation, it was very apparent that he was engaged in a lively discussion, they were laughing, and he looked like he was listening intently.
One of my favorite VPs said he learned this from his experience growing up around his father, who was a handyman for the rich and famous. He saw the way his father was often treated, and vowed if he ever ended up in a position of power, he would always treat everyone with a high degree of respect.

S = Support your employees. This means making sure they are paid fairly, are given the resources needed to do their jobs, barriers are removed, and sponsorship is obtained for their work. When they succeed, let everyone know. When they screw up, cover their backsides.

P = Please and thank-you. As a manager, you don’t have to ask your employees to do anything – you can simply order them. As a leader, if you treat them as if they do have a choice, they’ll end up exceeding your expectations. Saying thanks and showing sincere appreciation is another way to show respect. Most managers think they do a good job at this…. most employees think they don’t. Try doing it until it feels like overkill, and then you can pull back if people start complaining (it’s never happened).

E = Encourage every employee to grow and develop, in order to reach their full potential. Be a coach, a mentor, and a teacher. Set aside time on a regular basis for career and development discussions. Help your employees become more that they thought they could ever become. Better yet, help them become greater than yourself.

C = Care. That’s right, care about your employees (some would say love them, although that sounds a bit extreme for me). Care about their success at work, their families, their health, their goals, and their satisfaction. Here’s a test: do you know the names of your employee’s children? Do you give them a card on their birthday? What’s the first thing you do you do when an employee or family member becomes seriously ill? Ask how soon they can get back to work, because there are important project deadlines that can’t be missed? Or organize a food basket drive?

T = Treat people how they want to be treated (the platinum rule), not how you want to be treated (the golden rule).