I was speaking with a coaching client this past week and the topic of company culture came up.

What exactly is that?

We spoke for a few minutes, but my brain kept chewing on that question. Company culture is best described as…? I felt like I needed to simplify my answer a bit.

Then it dawned on me.

Respect.

Just like Aretha Franklin sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me.” It’s the personal, one-to-one connection that means you see me as a person and acknowledge what I bring to the table.

Solid company culture is built on a foundation of respect. Without respect what do you have? Mistrust. Lack of communication. No empathy. Alignment issues.

Let’s break that down into some ideas that you can use to develop more respect in your company. And with that, a better culture.

Job Satisfaction is Based on Respect

In a 2016 SHRM survey, “Respect” was the leading answer that contributed to job satisfaction.

So, in your shop how respectful is the management team toward the employees? Is there trust? Good communication? Empathy? Alignment?

It is hard to gauge sometimes. You might have all of that with a good number of employees, but entirely miss the boat with others. People are people, and we’re all different. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this.

So how do you develop respect?

Delegate Something Important

When you give a worker a task that is important or crucial to the mission, that shows respect. Of course, the opposite is true too. When you don’t let an employee handle a task, but instead feel you have to do it yourself, that shows a lack of respect.

The importance of the task is equivalent to the level of respect.

“Here, box this up for me,” says one thing. “Please meet and talk with our new client“, says another.

Giving your staff the training they need to succeed and grow so they are comfortable in higher-level situations is a form of respect too. People want those higher-level tasks. When you are willing to invest in them with time or financial backing to learn that skill, that shows that respect.

People want to know that they matter. That they are important.

As business owners and leaders often we feel that only “we can do that job the best” and have a white-knuckle grip on many different aspects of the company. But think about how much faster your company could grow if you freed up some of your time and taught and trusted others to perform those tasks?

What if you built a company comprised of movers and shakers?

Delegate something important today. Show that respect and watch it grow.

Provide Freedom for New Ideas

When was the last time anyone in your company came forward with a new idea that would help improve something? Do you encourage this?

Listen?

“What would be great around here is if we had a….”

“You know what we need? We need a…”

“I read an article last week on a company that started to use…”

Do those discussions happen in your business? What happens when someone says something like that? Are you even listening? Taking notes and jotting down that idea to follow up on later?

Does it matter who says it? That same suggestion can be just as impactful from the lowest level employee to the most senior leader. It could be the same idea. Would you honestly treat the idea the same?

More common is when employees voice their opinion or suggestion and nothing happens. It dies in the echo chamber. What happens then is that they learn that their thoughts or ideas don’t matter, so they quit suggesting things. Nobody speaks up. In fact, I’ll bet in some situations and companies actually saying anything is discouraged and frowned upon.

These are those companies where the leaders don’t understand “how these things happen around here” or “why didn’t anyone say anything?” They probably did once. Nobody listened.

Make sure that your crew feels comfortable speaking up. Give them the freedom to say that the emperor has no clothes. Listen to ideas.

Listening coupled with action equals respect.

People are People

What drives better company culture? Understanding that the folks working there are human beings with lives outside of work. They have families. Hobbies. Sports. They like to do things.

Not everything is about your company.

Respect is shown and great company culture is developed when you celebrate the outside interests of your staff.

Is someone going to school and continuing their college? Are you helping with that? Monetary support is great, but even allowing for time off to study or to duck out early to go to a lecture is a big plus. Do you celebrate their achievement when they earn that degree?

Maybe a team member is having a baby or has a parent in hospice. Are you showing empathy with that situation, or quoting the rules in the handbook? There is more to life than work, and ruling your staff with an iron fist when it comes to personal or family situations can drive wedges. Respectful companies come together and face these personal challenges with solidarity.

People also struggle. Have rules and set limits certainly, but recognize that people aren’t perfect. I’ve made a million mistakes in my life. In fact, I’ll make a few today. People respect companies and other people more when they show compassion and understanding when others stub their toe. There are boundaries, sure.

Sometimes all we need is a helping hand to get off the floor. “Hey, let me help you”, goes a long way.

Are you reaching out?

When the Fecal Matter Hits the Rotary Oscillator

Sometimes things go astray. How are you when that happens? What’s your demeanor?

Calm, cool, and collected? Snarling, and foaming at the mouth?

Regardless of what happened, you still have to solve the problem. Pitching a temper tantrum and letting some venom fly might feel good, but in the end, it is a fairly destructive practice.

Ask yourself what are you really accomplishing when you berate someone or “get a hunk of someone’s butt”. Is that respectful? Will that set them up for success the next time there is a problem?

What happens is that people will stop bringing you these challenges until it is too late. Nobody wants to be the messenger that gets killed.

Instead, learn from these as they are opportunities for you to get better. Call it tuition.

Maybe next time the shit won’t hit the fan.

All because there is better respect for everyone involved.

That’s something worth building.


“Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.” – Stephen Covey

“I’m not concerned with you liking or disliking me…All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” – Jackie Robinson

“I have respect for beer.” – Russel Crowe