Just a Little Respect

I want respect and you want respect and we both respect each other, but why don’t we feel respected?

It all comes down to the definition of respect, which is different for different generations. Each generation has its own associations and ideas about respect.

The Baby Boomers see respect as being linked with authority. They respect their elders, their boss, and others based on the authority they have. Gen X’ers tie respect into trust. They respect people and companies that they can put their faith in and believe will be successful and has proven results. Finally the Gen Y’ers see it as something that is earned, not given. They are looking for companies and people that “do good” and care. They respect those which they can genuinely like.

With each of these different ideas of what respect is, it is easy for respect to be misunderstood in the workplace. Respect becomes like a language, but if you don’t speak the language of the people around you, the message gets lost. In the workplace, we have to learn to understand how others understand and view respect so that we can respect them in ways that make them feel respected.

It is also important to understand that because ideas of respect are different, what appears to be respectful behavior from someone, may not mean they respect you at all. For instance, an employee may do a project the way their boss tells them, but because they don’t associate authority and respect, the employee may not be communicating respect, but instead a lack of trust that their boss will hear their ideas or concerns with a project.

For companies to develop a positive work environment, it is essential that company leaders understand the ways their employees understand respect to correctly understand what is going on around the office.

Let me leave you with some final thoughts about respect:

  • All people have inherent worth and are deserving of respect
  • Respect is a choice, not an emotion

Building Excellence

Excellence CycleDon’t settle for mediocrity or status quo in your job. Whether you want to advance with your current employer of make a career shift, we want to be excellent. I use the Excellence Cycle to stay out of the land of mediocrity and build excellence.

  1. Self- reflection
  2. Ask for and act on feedback
  3. Involve yourself and share


In order to be the best you, it is essential to know and understand who you are. This involves knowing your values and goals and understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses. On a regular basis I spend time thinking about what my goals are. One of my goals is to have a high impact on the people and environment around me. I value creating high quality work and building a relationship of trust with those I train. I want them to know I am giving the information they need to improve their bottom line and that they can seek me out to help with questions or issues they run into. For me, part of success lies in those I train knowing that when the formal training is over, I am there for them; we are a part of a team to build company success. I also spend time considering my strengths and weaknesses. I know I am an innovative problem solver, an engaging facilitator, passionate and committed to my customers. I also know that I need to broaden my areas of expertise in the electrical field which I work in. I find that regular reflection on who and where I am as a professional and reflection of specific projects helps me to revise my professional goals.

Ask for and Act on Feedback

Self-reflection is not enough though. It is also important to seek out feedback from others. This should be from internal customers, external customers, and colleagues and is a combination of formal and informal feedback. This helps you to understand how you are perceived and what strengths and weaknesses those around you perceive. In addition to the employee review system set up by my employer, I regularly seek out feedback. A few months back when I wrote a leadership statement, I provided a copy of it to my supervisor for feedback. I have also set up a formal feedback poll that we use after webinars that helps us to get feedback on the information presented, the presentation and solicit additional training learners are interested in. When I launch a new elearning lesson or conduct onsite training, I reach out to some of the first user/participants s for feedback on their experience. The key is that after receiving this feedback is to act on it. I take what I learn from feedback and put it into practice. Positive feedback is an affirmation of things you are doing well but also a reminder of strengths you want to not become complacent with; things you want to continue to do. Constructive feedback gives you performance targets. When I receive this kind of feedback, I also try to acknowledge it and let the person who provided it know what I am working on to improve.

Involve Yourself and Share

Once you have reflected and received feedback, it is important to learn new information or techniques to guide your improvement and to share what you know and what you learn. It is also imperative to stay on top of new industry news.  Involvement in formal and informal communities of learning is a place to do this. You might find yourself attending or presenting at conferences or industry meetings. I belong to the ASTD and attend the Boston chapter meetings to network and learn from my local colleagues. This might also be more informal communities such as twitter and blogs. I use both of these, as well as, Linked-In and places to learn from others but also share my strengths and areas of research and expertise with others.

All three parts of this cycle make sure that you do not stay static and continually feed into one another. Not only do these three things help you to constantly be in a state of improving, but as you follow this process, you will develop strengths that make you stand out from other professionals, which becomes your brand. Determining what those things are and communicating them through your actions and words allows you to not only be excellent, but to be known as excellent.

Have a Plan…Have Flexibility

KnotsLike most training specialists, there are standard areas that I am engaged in on a regular basis, but recently I got to go back to something I haven’t done in a few years, team-building facilitation. In my early twenties, I had been trained in team-building and low ropes and through my connection with a camp, had done team-building sessions for teen and adult groups. Recently I had the opportunity to do that with some folks as a part of an all-day retreat. As a part of most challenges that I facilitate, I have participants take time to put together a plan and have them explain it to me. When they a ready, I ask them three questions:

  1. Do you have a plan?
  2. Does everyone know the plan?
  3. What is the plan? (asked of one participant)

Part of why I ask these questions is so that I can understand what the participants will be doing so that I can make sure it is a safe experience for everyone, make sure the participants have understood the goals, and also so that I can provide the correct support as necessary.

While I use these questions when I facilitate team-building challenges, these are important questions to ask any team that you are managing. As a good manager, it is important to know the approach the team is planning so that you can understand the direction, make sure it lines up with the goals, and be able to provide the necessary support.

In this recent experience, the participants were asked to cross a “rushing river” that was about 25 feet wide with the help of four magic turtles. The turtles would help them by allowing them to step on their backs and prevent them from being washed away in the current. The stipulation was that the turtles would only help if they felt needed, which the turtles judged by physical contact. As i as they were in physical contact with someone, they would stay and allow their backs to be stepped on, but if that physical contact was absent, they would swim away. After developing a plan and getting the green light from me, the group started to cross the river and they were immediately challenged when one of the turtles lost physical contact and swam away. As they made their way across the “river” the flaws in their plan became apparent and with some on the fly changes involving passing one person back and forth between the backs of two others, the first three people made it across. It had worked for these three but it became clear this was not going to work for the whole group. The participants then spent some time revising the plan and determining a new method to cross the river and plan two was born. This plan involved people working in pairs of two in very close proximity and the group got four more people across and there were only three people left to cross. Well this presented a new challenge because their system needed pairs…and plan three was born and the last of the group made it across.

While the group had a plan to start, it was their ability to adjust and develop new plans to meet changing circumstances that made them a success. This is also true of project teams in the workplace. A good team will be able to develop a working plan but also be able to react to changing circumstances and challenges. This became one on the points discussed when we debriefed this exercise.

It is essential that we create a plan based on the information we know but we must also be ready to react to issues that arise and changing circumstances. If we lack the agility to evolve that plan, success will rely on a perfect initial plan, something which rarely happens.

Creating a Leadership Statement

Have you ever considered your leadership style? Do you reflect on it to determine if your beliefs and actions are consistent? Do you need to?

Early last week one of my co-workers asked me to answer some questions about leadership for a class she is taking. Answering the questions she asked gave me a time to reflect of my leadership ideals and style and I found answering these questions to be a good, reflective growth opportunity. Furthermore, it inspired me to dig deeper and I decided that I could gain even more by fleshing out a full leadership statement and seeking feedback on it. I want to share my experience with you and encourage you to examine your own leadership style and develop a leadership statement.

Writing a Leadership Statement

I started the process using one of my answer to my co-worker’s question, which outlines my ideal of leadership:

An effective leader understands the different resources available to him; people, skills, tools, financial resources, and leverage those resources to bring vision into reality. But an effective leader is not an island. He recognizes that visions are best achieved when the leader acknowledges that he does not have all the answers and invites those around him to collaborate, to fully develop and implement the vision.

Identify Core Values

From there I asked myself what my core values were. After careful thought, I came up with the following list:

  • Integrity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Personal Growth

Reflect on these Values

For each of these values, I considered how it impacted my leadership and leadership style, identifying actions where I saw each core value used in my leadership. For instance, as I considered personal growth, I observed my practice of looking at each situation I encounter for something I can learn or grow form.  One such example was discussing eLearning design with a colleague from another company. I was intrigues by their focus on exploratory techniques in the design. It caused me to further research this idea and evaluate my own work, which led to some tweaking of my design approach and templates. This approach of seeking personal growth and encouraging and empowering others to engage in that is central to my leadership style.

Summarize Your leadership Style

Looking at the full scope of my reflections, I wrote about each core value and them summed up with a statement summarizing my overall style:

Each of these core values influences me daily in my choices and behavior and guides me to be a leader that invites others to join me on the journey and focuses on coaching others to continually grow and evolve as we develop and achieve our vision and goals.

Get Feedback

Finally, the last, and one of the most important pieces, is to get feedback. I sent out my statement to people from different areas of my life where I am a leader. I sent it to people who I have led, co-led with, or been under their supervision. I asked them if they felt the statement was accurate and fit what they observed, if there were things they had not see, and if there were core values that seemed to be missing.

If you have not engaged in this kind of reflection, I highly recommend it. I found it was helpful to understand my ideals of leadership, my core values and how they impacted my leadership and then checking my perceptions against those I trust and respect.


To see my leadership Statement click here.