Most Code of Conduct documents highlight the need for respect. Yet lack of respect is a key concern in most organizations, with a significant negative impact on individuals, teams and the overall entity. The lack of courteous acknowledgement of the value and worth of people at all levels derails results.
Respect can mean different things to different people. It is perceived through the lens of the individual on the receiving end based on the actions of others, influenced not only by societal norms but also individual experiences. There are actions that are of little consequence to most people but yet can be the source of significant distress to a few. Conversely, everyday actions of an individual may be recognized as totally inappropriate by the group and yet go totally unrecognized by that person.
Whether in the workplace or in the community, significant resources are allocated to designing processes and providing educational resources to support people to be respectful. Outlining expectations, highlighting repercussions of non-compliance and rewarding wanted behaviour supports creating a desired culture. However, during change and when resources are limited, external pressure limits success. Our motivators to be perfect, be strong, try hard, hurry up and please others (known as Kahler’s Drivers) become dysfunctional. Respect is challenged as reactive behaviour overtakes proactive decision-making.
5 tips to support a culture of respect:
1. Clarify expectations.
The purpose of any organization is to align resources toward a shared vision and mission. The rules provide the framework to which we operate. Whether outlined in organizational bylaws, policy and procedure manuals or the code of conduct, rules outline expectations. In many cases, senior leadership spends considerable resources to develop the direction and the structure but the understanding at point of execution is insufficient. When the words are not understood and the importance of the direction is not appreciated, rules feel restrictive and limiting. And the natural response to anything that is limiting is to react.
Sharing vision allows members at all levels of the organization better understand the value of the rules. Outlining expectations supports understanding of individual roles within the organization to deliver on the vision. When individuals feel part of the greater purpose, respect is fostered because the rules do not feel as restrictive.
2. Set expectations that can be achieved.
It is common for senior leaders to feel increased pressure when external demands increase. Plans are created that are not achievable and individuals and teams that are tasked with delivering the results feel frustrated and overwhelmed. In these cases, their response is often based on the triggers to these emotions. The tone of voice changes, facial expressions are less friendly and body position automatically shifts. The reaction is less courteous – even when the words remain totally acceptable. The interpretation on the receiving end is based on this feeling before the words are even heard.
Setting expectations that are achievable and demonstrating support of their efforts will help to create a culture of respect.
3. Resolve the underlying issue as it arises.
Inevitably, issues will arise and our natural reaction is to implement a new rule to specifically prevent a future occurrence. However, the rule imposes further restrictions on the individual or team. When we can listen to all perspectives without imposing our personal bias, we are better positioned to resolve the issue rather than react to the issue.
Shifting the focus from implementing to new rules to resolving the underlying issue through openness and trust helps build respect.
4. Acknowledge your reaction to the issue.
Our society takes great pride in having rational approaches to resolve issues. In this environment, it can be challenging to recognize when situations shift from rational (cognitive) to irrational (emotional) responses. Rather than further validating our response, we require the ability to step back and listen. We often have opportunity deescalate situations by curbing our reaction to be right and to correct others. The challenge is that in the moment, our beliefs and reactions do not create space for understanding. The required work is to resolve the underlying belief so that we can better listen to the other person. This work is not at the cognitive level.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of creating a culture of respect is to raise self-awareness to our own reactive patterns that erodes respect. In many cases it is not what we say but how we say it that derails results.
5. Take responsibility to resolve repetitive patterns.
Most coaching is approached from a rational, cognitive perspective. The individual is told what needs to change and yet the behaviour never changes. In many cases, the only available tool to resolve the repetitive behaviour is to fire the individual. Given the traditional western business culture believes that you can’t fire the boss, the only option is for employees to disengage or quit.
In our rapidly changing world, it is normal for leaders to feel increased pressure and to react. Learning how to resolve the triggers to our reactive behaviour so that we can feel calm, allows those around us to feel increased safety and respect.
Logosynthesis®, developed by Dr. Willem Lammers, offers a profound philosophy supported by a simple yet powerful technique to resolve the perceptual triggers to reactive behaviour. By identifying the thoughts, emotions and sensations associated with the presenting issue, the individual is guided through a series of steps that effectively resolve perceptions that trigger reactions. When the closed reactions dissolve, it creates space for openness, trust and respect.