I’m sure most of us have heard the statement that a good leader treats his/her team “with respect”. This sounds good, right? Everyone wants to be respected. Yet, at times, we treat our teams in ways that make them feel like we’re in more of a “parent-child” relationship than an “adult-adult” relationship where we fully acknowledge and recognize that our teams have the wherewithal to think and act on their own effectively with limited guidance from us.
Here are a few things leaders can do to demonstrate greater respect for their teams.
- Assume that your team members can handle the truth. In spite of what Jack Nicholson’s character said to Tom Cruise’s character in the movie A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth!”), they can handle it. They may not be happy if you don’t give them the promotion or pay raise they were expecting, but they’ve handled disappointments before and will get through this. Tell them honestly what you think they need to hear. As long as they believe you have their best interests in mind, they can accept (but may not necessarily agree with) what you have to say. Even though they may be accepting of the action, don’t expect them to “turn the corner” instantly and walk out of the office brimming with enthusiasm at learning that they didn’t get the promotion or the new job. Recognize they may need to some time and space to adjust and adapt to the unanticipated circumstances.
- Honor your commitments. If you promised someone you’ll follow up, then do so. If you said you will make a decision by next Tuesday, then make the decision by then. If something has changed and you can’t meet the commitment, then let the person know why, don’t keep him/her guessing or assume they know the reason for the change or lack of decision. Keeping others informed and sharing as much as you can is a huge part of gaining respect.
- Let the team or individual make as many decisions as possible. Give the parameters within which they can decide their own work and priorities. If someone is new to the company or job, he or she will need more guidance, and it’s ok to be reminded of this. But, if the person demonstrates reasonable competence, then set your goals collaboratively, clarify your expectations, offer what resources you can by way of assistance and then get out of the way, please.
- Don’t assume you always know what is best for others. Your team will appreciate your perspective and they recognize that it may be more “big picture” than their own. But find out what they think is best first, and then ask for permission to share your perspective. They will probably listen more closely to what you have to say when you show interest in their ideas first, rather than immediately telling them what they should do.
- Really listen. Don’t ignore the team’s input in a meeting or conversation. Acknowledge what they have to say even if you don’t agree with it. Don’t ask someone a question and then immediately jump in with your perspective or answer. Worst of all, please don’t multi-task when you’re speaking with someone. Let them know you’re really listening to them by making eye contact, using attentive body language and through pertinent responses to the comments/questions during the time you’re together.
- Recognize that each team member is unique, and that fairness is not always treating people exactly alike. I recognize there are often HR rules that need to be followed, and that consistency is important, but make an effort to hear the person out, and let’s see if we can find a solution that meets everyone’s needs. Explain what you can do, not just what you can’t do.
- Assume everyone wants what’s best for the team and organization. They really do care about the company and the team. They want their colleagues to be successful. Of course, they want to be successful too. Please view the person’s actions and behaviors in light of truly wanting to help and do the right thing. Admittedly, someone may occasionally miss a bigger need, or think of his or her own needs first. But, deep down they know that the team’s success and company’s success in the long run bodes well for the individual too.
Follow these simple rules and you will earn not only your team’s respect, but also their trust and die-hard commitment to conquer whatever lies ahead.