There is no shortage of opinion pieces on the top characteristics of “entitled millennials,” “workaholic boomers,” and the like. But every generation thinks the next generation is doomed, and the only thing that really matters is something that transcends all generational lines: respect.
During an eye-opening lunch with a wildly successful female entrepreneur, the topic of respect came up. This friend shared a life lesson she had learned from her father that made me immediately question everything: “If you ever feel that you are not being respected, ask yourself, have I earned their respect?”
Now, I have always believed that it is far more important to be respected than liked, yet this simple statement took that concept to a whole new level. It posed a challenge and ignited a firestorm of questioning of what it looks like to earn respect at work, at home, in relationships, everywhere.
As president of ACI Specialty Benefits, I am responsible for cultivating respect at the workplace, and this extends far beyond our internal offices and out to all customers, partners and friends. Sharing this epiphany with various people and gathering more valuable insights led me to develop what I refer to as the five mantras of respect in the workplace:
1) Trust, delegate, and empower: A common leadership trap is thinking, “If I just do this myself, I will get it done better and faster;” or worse, “Do I have to do everything around here myself?” When those thoughts start coming up, it is a tell-tale sign of underlying trust issues. Earning the respect of employees begins with trust and delegating responsibilities. This leads to empowerment, one of my favorite values at ACI.
2) Disrupt the status quo: Decisions rooted in people-pleasing and resistance to change will ultimately please no one. The ability to think independently, take risks, follow-through, admit failure, stay accountable and change course as needed are all paramount to earning and sustaining employees’ respect.
3) Be transparent: Yes, this is a major millennial buzzword, but transparency has an undeniable role in fostering respect in the workplace. True transparency should not be confused with over-sharing; instead, organizational transparency should be rooted in strategy, purpose and intention.
4) Treat employees like humans, not resources: In a competitive global market, focusing on growth, profits and innovation is absolutely necessary — just not at the expense of humanity. I learned from ACI’s CEO, Dr. Ann Clark, that every company has the same competitive advantage: its people. When businesses focus on helping all employees reach their full potential in all areas of life, it undoubtedly leads to stronger performance, better retention and a positive impact on the bottom line.
5) Respect yourself and others: Earning respect from others begins with respecting yourself. Respecting others naturally follows.
Asking myself, “Have I earned their respect,” became such a passion that I even started applying it to family life. How was I disciplining my children? How was I treating my spouse? If I wasn’t respecting myself, what was that teaching my children? Be respectful to yourself and others is now my favorite house rule.
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