Respect for People (+ 8-Page Lean PDF)
It is a simple concept that should act as a moral compass in how people do business.
The fact is that a company does not have to be respectful of its employees and customers in order to be successful. Some can treat their workers and clients with disdain and a lack of respect and still remain profitable…for a while, at least. In the end, it turns out that being respectful is not only the right thing to do, but is also good for business.
Search the internet, and you will find a plethora of studies that show that last statement to be true. Companies that are on Fortune Magazine’s “Best Places to Work” list outperform other companies. A 2008 by study Alex Edmans of Wharton showed the BPTW companies averaged a 13.9% return vs. 6.1% for the broader market from 1998 to 2006. Sears conducted a study which went even further and linked employee satisfaction to customer satisfaction, and ultimately a tangible increase in profitability.
The short of it is that if you treat people right, the bottom line rewards you. Plus, most people will sleep better at night knowing that they improved the lives of the people they work with rather than simply harvest production from them.
Unfortunately, the actual application of the term “respect for people” can be less than perfect.
Leaders can feel pressure that makes them act in ways that put short term gains first. Or, they might simply not know a better way to do business.
Fortunately, a continuous improvement system has proven time and time again to be a great way to build a culture that values the contributions of the members of its team and strengthens the organization as a result.
Read more about this topic below.
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While respect for people is important in all relationships, in the context of Lean, it is most often used synonymously with ‘respect for employees’. This article deals primarily with that aspect of it, but it is also important to show similar respect to customers and leaders.
In both of those cases, though, the power structure in place tends to push respectful behavior. Treat a customer disrespectfully, and they will take their business elsewhere. Treat a manager disrespectfully, and you may find yourself looking for a job.
So, because both of those groups are generally self-policing, let’s focus on employees. Keep in mind, though, that a manager wears two hats. While he is in charge of his team, he also has a boss who is in charge of him. He can suffer the symptoms of a disrespectful work environment, just as an employee can.
People are motivated by a variety of things. Some are intrinsically motivated, and act the way they do because of a deep-seated belief system. Others tend to be more extrinsically motivated, and respond more to external pressures than to what is inside of them.
In many cases, the extrinsic pressures create the conditions that make it hard to show respect for people. When a boss is facing a crisis and is under stress, he may not act in a respectful manner. When a leader is facing the loss of a customer, she may make unfair demands on a team member.
Let’s move on from motivation now, and talk about what respect for people actually looks like.
Being respectful does not by any means require leaders to say ‘yes’ to every demand. Strong work ethics and industrial discipline go hand in hand with respect for people.
The following items, in no particular order, are examples of ways that leaders can show respect for their employees.
The point of that list is not to be all inclusive, but rather to give you some ideas to start breaking the mold of how a working relationship should be, especially between bosses and subordinates.
You deserve respect from your boss, but you also have to earn it. It is a two way street. If you don’t want to be micromanaged, you need to follow processes, and act based on facts and data.
The bottom line is that you will need to put in some effort if you want to earn more than the minimum amount of respect due every employee. The whole team should not be treated equally. That is not respectful to the people who work the hardest, or perform the best, or embrace the company’s principles.
Showing respect for your team is not only morally right, but it is also great for business. If you put all 22 of the ideas above into practice, you won’t recognize your team. They will perform beyond any of your wildest expectations.
Possibly the biggest barrier I see to respect is the “it’s only business” mentality. People justify doing things they would not normally do because it is done on behalf of the company.
Go by the “red-face rule” when taking action. If you could explain what you said or did at work to your mother, or you religious leader, or the person you are on a first date with and not have your face turn red from embarrassment, you are probably OK. There is a good chance you are acting respectfully if you can relay your actions with pride. If you would be ashamed of your actions, you failed the test of the “red-face rule”.
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