Why in Lean Implementation is it vital to build an organization based upon Respect for People?
This simple and commonly asked question is the most misunderstood part of Lean and for that matter life in general.
“Action of Respect”
What do I mean when I say the action of respect? Well respect is one of the many English language words than can serve a multitude of purposes; it is often used as a noun, but can also be used as a verb. Those of us that understand English even marginally know that verbs are words that imply actions that will occur, have occurred or are occurring. When respect is used as a verb, it implies the activity of showing respect to someone is being performed by someone else.
The action of respect cannot be commanded, required, ordered, or in any way forced. For genuine respect to exist the giver has to willing perform the act of respecting you.
How will people come to the decision that you deserve their respect?
Generally, if you hold a position above another they will show you respect as long as you do not act in such a manner that would reveal to them you do not deserve it. Unfortunately today we have had so many undeserving people hold positions that should be respected, that automatic respect is declining constantly. Many professions that were once highly respected, command no respect at all today, and in some professions its members start from a negative position where they first have to earn people’s respect. Even among those positions that are still shown respect, it has become far easier to lose the respect, through simple carelessness. Once you lose the respect of people you have to work twice as hard or more to regain it.
You can also earn their willing respect toward you by simply over time acting in such a way that they come to the conclusion that you are worthy of their respect. This holds true even for a position that would be respected from the outset. If an individual acts in a consistent, honest manner, treating people as they should be treated, they will over time earn the respect of those around them. This often the way subordinate personnel gain the respect of their superiors. The more respect you have earned with people the harder it is to lose it. Thus someone who rarely does something wrong could actually commit a much larger error than someone who is constantly making mistakes. This is the difference of why Toyota is suffering less from their recent mistakes, than would have a traditional Big 3 automaker. Their overall respect rating in society is much higher than their competition, so they have a relationship buffer.
How can one earn respect? That answer depends on where it is you are starting from. We will begin by discussing how those who still have some respect can earn more respect, and then discuss how those who have lost all respect can turn a situation around and rebuild it.
If you have some degree of respect, it is fairly simple to build more, but beware though what you have to do is simple, it is not easy. Five simple actions are all you need to focus on in order to earn more respect. First is consistency, you cannot constantly act differently toward others if you wish to earn more respect from them. Instability is a sign of immaturity, which will destroy any respect you have earned. So start by making sure that you act in a controlled and consistent manner, that way everyone knows what to expect.
Being fair comes next, people expect fairness and justice from those above them, when you fail to deliver that and start playing favourites, than you show a total disregard to those around you. When you do not care for them they will not respect you. A dictator may get everyone to bow to them, but that is a sign of fear not respect.
Understanding is also a key action you can perform in order to build respect, when you take the time to understand them; you are telling them that they matter. If they matter to you, then you will matter to them, and their way of showing it to you is through showing you respect. When you also show appreciation towards others they realize that you care for them and respect their ideas and opinions, their natural reaction is to show you even more respect.
Finally the fifth way to build more respect is through respecting others first. Not surprising that if you show someone respect, they in turn will show it to you. It is human nature to treat others as others have treated them. These five actions will always help you build more respect and are the minimum requirements to earn more respect. The next two actions can also be used to expand your respect, but if you are respected already they are not essential, though they can make you unbeatable.
Now what do you do to earn respect if you have lost their respect in the first place? One you need to live the above five action, but there are two more you will need to develop as well. Firstly you need to show those whose respect you are trying to earn that you truly regret the things you have done to lose their respect. Sorry for this to work it has to be sincere, if you do not truly regret losing their respect you will never be able to win it back.
The second action you must undertake in order to win back respect is to humble yourself. Nothing helps rebuild damaged relationships faster than honest heartfelt humility. Thus does not mean going out publicly humiliating yourself or allowing others to humiliate you. Rather it means acting in a way that shows you do not consider yourself to be superior to them, but that you are willing to serve them to fix your relationship with them.
Now if you want to destroy respect just don’t follow the advice, but do not expect Lean or anything else to be able to help your organization.
Now you know how to build and even rebuild respect. It may surprise some of you to find out that some of history’s most respected individuals often started from holding a respected position, and then not only practised the five actions to build respect, but they did so while exercising humility, and when they made even a minor mistake, they displayed sincere regret. No one who has ever held lasting respect ever failed to embody the personal control to master these simple habitual actions. To them they became like breathing.
If you can develop your ability to both give and earn respect you will find that your Lean Implementations will go much smoother.