Authentically Leading and Following (Part III)

Christmasornamentsby Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes “To grow as a leader, be a student, not a critic.” — Andy Stanley Throughout our careers, we have found authentic leadership and followership to be a daily choice.  It’s a conscious effort.  In this series, we have been discussing twelve traits we believe are critical for being authentic leaders and followers.  Today’s trait is respect. Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University studying civility in the workplace discovered that employees who encounter incivility while on the job experience a great decrease in timeliness and quality of work, and they sometimes even take their frustration out on customers.  To make matters worse, the survey indicated 25% of the managers were disrespectful to their employees due to the example their leaders had set. Let’s break the chain. However, respect means more than just being civil.  A few kind words without action do nothing. Here are a few important ways we can show respect. Ask for Others’ Opinions … Then Listen. We found those under our charge felt most respected when we asked for their opinions and then listened.  Actively listened.  As Andy Stanley says, “Be a student – not a critic. Say ‘wow’ to their ideas rather than ‘how’ all the time.” This also means listening when your followers have a problem. A year ago, I was working on a big project with a small team.  All of us were in charge of gathering information and putting it together for our presentation.  However, one team member felt she was burdened with most of the work, and she reacted passive aggressively, refusing help and input when it was offered.  It wasn’t until I went to her and listened to her grievances that we were able to work together to create a presentation that went very well.  Future projects we worked on together were successful, but I had to take the time to listen for us to truly respect one another. Be Flexible. Everyone is different.  We are in different walks of life and have different beliefs, cultures, and ideas.  We might not agree with others’ opinions, but it’s important to respect one another’s opinions.  If the solution to a problem isn’t working, be open to suggestions, even if they aren’t conventional. Be Approachable. You want your followers to come to you proactively.  Find a way to make yourself approachable.  This requires being authentic, a trait we have discussed earlier.  For some leaders, this means having an open-door policy, and for others, it’s scheduling more frequent one-on-one meetings with employees – learning about their day, their goals, their interests.  Find what works for you, and be consistent. Be Direct and Honest, Even When It’s Not Comfortable. Most people want to be valued and appreciated for their work.  If someone is not meeting the standard you know they can reach, tell them – but be compassionate and sensitive.  Ask questions.  Encourage transparency.  It will show that you care about them as a valuable worker.  More often than not, they will meet or even exceed your expectations.  Don’t be afraid of the difficult conversations. In the end, we just need to remember the old adage: “Treat others the way we want to be treated” … with kindness, courtesy, and respect.  We’ve found when we lead with an atmosphere of trust and respect, we are rewarded with loyalty and performance – and with respect for ourselves.