As the wheels of our plane touched down in Melbourne, I couldn’t help but reflect on the upcoming Steople global strategic planning meetings. Offsites like these can be a substantial investment in terms of time and resources, but if done right, they prove to be invaluable. Traditionally, our agendas have been laden with numbers, business development discussions, and some fun, informal time. This year, however, we decided to take a different approach – one that combines the professional with the personal.

Of course, we held onto the fun, enjoying tours of fantastic wineries, competing fiercely in scavenger hunts, hiking through picturesque landscapes, and savoring Melbourne’s finest coffee. But this time, we wanted more than just numbers; we wanted to focus on the heartbeat of Steople – our staff experience as a team member.

In planning for the offsite, as a leadership team, we posed a fundamental question to ourselves: “What does this team need most right now?” It had been somewhat of a rollercoaster over the past 12 months, and we knew we needed to do something a little different – connecting the heart with the work.  This led us to two of the most impactful sessions we’ve ever had – crafting individual Core Purpose statements and revitalizing our Employee Value Proposition.
Why did we embark on this journey?  We firmly believe that aligning an individual’s core purpose with their role in a company is a potent strategy that fuels results and elevates our work with clients. When employees are driven by a sense of purpose that resonates with the company’s mission, their engagement, commitment, and enthusiasm soar.

Clarifying Core Purpose Statements
For me personally, I’ve always kept my Core Purpose at the forefront of everything I do. My life is a seamless blend of work and home life.  So my Core Purpose is:

Now, to some, that might sound too holistic, and indeed, many others in our group had more business-focused Core Purposes. But that’s the beauty of a Core Purpose – it’s uniquely yours, and it only needs to resonate with you. As we guided our team through this process, we emphasized a few key principles:

1. Engage in Open Dialogue: We encouraged open and honest conversations with our employees to understand their personal values, passions, and aspirations. This required active listening and empathy to uncover what truly motivates them.

2. Identify Common Ground: We looked for intersections between our team members’ values/purpose and the company’s values, purpose, and vision. We plan to continue seeking areas where their passions and skills align seamlessly with the company’s goals.

3. Provide Autonomy and Ownership: We encourage our employees the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of projects that resonated with their passions and purpose. This autonomy fosters a sense of responsibility and commitment.

4. Foster a Supportive Culture: Every week, we make it our mission to cultivate a workplace culture that values purpose alignment and encourages individuals to pursue their passions. This includes fostering an atmosphere of trust, open communication, and mutual support.

5. Encourage Reflection: We will encourage our employees to periodically reflect on their work and its alignment with their Core Purpose. This self-awareness has the potential to lead to adjustments and improvements over time.

Employee Value Proposition Alignment
An Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is pivotal to nurturing a strong culture. It serves as the promise to everyone within the company and distinguishes your organization from others. But what about our EVP? We realized that while our Client Value Proposition was in great shape, our Employee Value Proposition wasn’t leaving a lasting impression or resonating with our staff. It wasn’t necessarily “wrong,” but we understood that it must be deeply embedded in our culture.

We rolled up our sleeves and got to work on it. It’s still a work in progress, but we know that elements like Autonomy, Variety, Impact, and Support will be featured prominently. We plan to wordsmith it and then pressure-test it across the company.

In the end, our meetings were a resounding success, and we’re committed to weaving these principles into the very fabric of our culture. This journey is a testament to the power of aligning personal purpose with organizational goals and how much we value our staff – a fusion that holds the potential to drive not only individual growth but also the collective success of our company.

Standing outside on the balcony, feeling the hot rays of sun on my face, and catching the breeze coming from the north, I could see the Pacific Ocean just a block away. As each wave rolled in, I saw figures bobbing in the water – easily flowing back and forth. I realized they were surfers out to catch a wave before they started their day. It was at that moment that I gained clarity on my North Star. “Why am I doing what I am do every day?”  It’s because one day I want to be on the water with my kids trying to catch the perfect morning wave!

The Steople team gathered in sunny California to enjoy time together and gain alignment on our goals and rallying cry moving into the end of the fiscal year. Our annual strategic planning offsite event was booked several months ago, and we were all excited to spend time together. We started out the day with air travel. Not surprising to say that everyone’s travel was eventful with cancellations and delays. Nonetheless, we all got to Los Angeles in one piece and met for a late lunch at a restaurant on the beach. We enjoyed a team building activity that night talking about what drives us and what drains us as individuals and as a team. This provided much needed insight to the team and how to work better together. Even though most of us have worked together for a while, this activity helped us realign on each individual value. Apparently, my drainer is “enjoyment.”  Of course, the team found this revelation quite funny!  However, it wasn’t a big surprise to me. When I am tasked with work, all I want to do is put my head down and get it done. Go ahead and think it… Layla’s the buzz killer (smile)!

We spent the entire next day aligning around goals and reviewing Steople’s core ideology consisting of our core purpose, core values, mission/vision statement, and SWOT analysis. In reviewing our core values, we provided examples of how we “walk the talk” every day in our behaviors and work product with our clients and our own team members. These core values provide guidelines for us of how we want to behave in our own Steople culture. By knowing your core values, it allows you to get you through challenging times because the strong foundation is set and clear for all. This sets the culture in an organization. Talking about our vision statement enables each of us to see how our roles guide us collectively into the envisioned future.  We asked ourselves, “Why are we doing what we do?”  Client meetings often take us away from our families and, sometimes, we even have to face the challenges of working across global time zones.  Indeed… why do we do this kind of work? Simply put – we love our team, the work we do, and the clients with whom we do it!

I gained the most clarity during our talks of core ideology, metrics, feedback/recognition session, and strategy discussion.  As a team, we strategized around how we will achieve our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) during our session on our one big commitment. Before I reported out on my own One Big Commitment to the team, I walked back to the balcony, looked out to the ocean, and asked myself again, “Why do I get up every day and get excited about the work that I do?” Because one day, my kids and I will be on the beach at sunrise to “catch the perfect wave.” How do I achieve that? I need to be aligned with my teammates and on the same page with my vision for the upcoming year.  Getting alignment may require difficult conversations; this is where the turning point was for our team. Being able to have healthy conflict on a team enables the team to gain trust and become more open to innovation and creativity instead of being reactive to a situation or person.

As we faced the last day in sunny California, we packed our bags and piled into a Jeep laughing about funny moments from our time here.  We broke bread together one more time at a restaurant on the pier before heading back to the airport. As a reminder of the clarity I achieved, my mentor – who happens to by the CEO of Steople – gave me a ”Surfing the Wave” sticker that I have in front my computer as a daily reminder of my WHY.

Remember to invest in your business and your people by ensuring your strategic planning offsite happens so you can realign around your core ideology.  Make it a priority as this will help guide individual team members through challenging times and help them find the focus and desire to work as one team.  Allow Steople to be your compass as you find your North Star.

As I crossed the street in downtown Melbourne with my fellow directors, I reveled in the idle chit-chat I had been missing for 3 years.  I was back in the Land Down Under for our annual Strategic Planning Meeting…out of Zoom Room Purgatory!  As we walked, we randomly talked about the rich history of Italian influence on coffee in Australia, the difference in men’s dress from Sydney to Melbourne, and the politics of the most recently elected prime minister.  How much I had missed my peers and the banter we always had back and forth! We were all energized because we were going to a bonus in-person client event.  This one was special because it was taking place on a Tuesday at lunch at the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) with a handful of Aussie clients and colleagues to simply connect and discuss what was weighing heaviest on their minds.

As I entered the venue, it was absolutely gorgeous with antique cars, beautiful furniture, exquisite chandeliers, and elegant waitstaff! We were served appetizers and adult beverages as we were waiting to be seated.  Upon being introduced to people we had not met, we all commented how decadent it felt for a Tuesday afternoon…and, in some ways in our minds, it was a celebration of the return to us getting back to in-person events.  I met several outstanding professionals in the retail, financial, hospitality/food service, government, and not-for-profit sectors.  We were all seated and after putting in our lunch orders we got down to business.  There was no agenda and the question posed was “What are the current wicked problems in your business to be solved?”  It was amazing how similar the themes were, and I have captured them here, hoping that they resonate with you (you are not alone), dear readers.

Current Pressing Problems

1. How can we attract and retain people who are aligned with our purpose and culture?  As we went around the table with everyone introducing themselves it was evident what the biggest pain point was.   It is a run for talent as many of you reading this have experienced.  There is recent inflation of salaries and people jumping from job to job.  Something that was confounding to everyone was how people had evaporated – historically they would have had 1,000 apply for a job and now there were 30 applicants.  On top of that, it was discussed that the power dynamics had shifted. What used to satisfy employees no longer does.  We have had to get much more creative to meet the needs of those we are charged to lead.

What is going on from my point of view?  For many skilled, professional workers, the historical changes to their lives and the way they work over the past two years have essentially flattened Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  In the past, job security, decent compensation, and at least a tangible opportunity were the price of entry for people coming into organizations. Now a massive number of employees not only want to feel invested in the work they do, but they also want to see that their employer is invested in the same things they value and believe in. Employees, at the very least, want to:

  • Feel valued, have a voice, and have the potential to grow
  • Have a sense of belonging among caring, trusted, and diverse-thinking colleagues
  • Trust that the work that is being done has purpose and meaning
  • Have the flexibility to integrate work with their personal lives

Now, none of this comes as a surprise to any of you, I know.  But, what strategic initiatives have you put in place to address these in your core ideology, hiring practices, employee benefits, DEI work, leadership programs, and ability to build high-performing teams?  With some research on best practices and input from your employee base, you can create strategic initiatives to begin to address these issues.  Yes, it takes time and, just like you, sometimes I feel like I take one step forward and two steps back, but that really is what leadership is. Without the obstacles the journey wouldn’t be as sweet, would it?

2. How can we enhance our employee value proposition (EVP) so it resonates?  One of the clients who was sitting at our table spoke at length about the cultural work their company had done in the past year.  They talked about how important creating a clear core purpose was to establish a great culture. The result was the team rallying around such a deep, important reason for being in existence and that driving performance and engagement within the organization. This conversation led to the group agreeing that previously, having one clear employee value proposition was enough.  Not so now.  The great organizations ask themselves what can we do to make people feel loved and safe?  The employee value proposition is not a one size fits all and there must be several.  Companies must listen and realize what is important to the different groups.

What is going on from my point of view?  With so much riding on escaping “the Great Resignation” unscathed, employers are starting to realize that they must start from scratch and create a strong, multi-dimensional EVP that fully delivers on their company’s employee-experience promise. One that fuels a culture where everyone can bring their full range of talents, feel included and valued, and do great work in a great environment.  In order to have a really great EVP, these are 3 of the things our clients are including in successful ones:

  • Your EVP must be linked to your purpose. People are increasingly looking to join organizations that have a greater purpose beyond profitability. Ensure your EVP clearly articulates this purpose and connects to the employee experience and the role your people have in helping your organization achieve the greater good.
  • You must foster a culture of belonging, flexibility, and growth. How does your organization facilitate connection and inclusion? How does it help people learn and grow? How does it accommodate everyone’s unique needs? These are questions people ask in both their job searches and their own organizations and should be outlined in your EVP.  This absolutely relates to our #1  issue above!
  • You must look inside first and create a movement. Involving your people in the creation process is critical to ensuring your EVP is both real and a little bit aspirational. Soliciting feedback and giving your people the opportunity to show and tell the world about who you are as a company is one of the most powerful ways to bring your EVP to life.

Warren Buffet talks about a Value Proposition is a moat that separates you from your competitors.  It is tough to cross and get to your castle.  In other words, what sets you apart as an employer that would be hard to replicate by other businesses in your sector?  That is your EVP…and you can’t just rely on one.  You have to have several that address the diversity of your employee base.  Don’t you want to be the employer of choice?  It is such hard work!

3. How Can We Convince Leaders That They Have to Lead Differently?  The final theme that jumped out at me as I sat at this luncheon with a room full of incredibly smart, thoughtful people had to do with leadership. Of course, a subject near and dear to my heart. I don’t have to tell you that the pandemic changed leadership forever. It started with CEOs I know having weeks of sleepless nights putting together contingency plans and solving problems for an event that few predicted and even fewer prepared for. If their thinking didn’t flip on its head during this time, then they are being left behind. They had to pivot their thinking on the hybrid work environment, how to hold remote people accountable, how to shift away from the top down, how to create psych safety in a scary environment, how to influence people to get into leadership roles, and how to get more comfortable with technology in a split second…among 100 other 360 degree pivots. We all did. But, what many of us are facing now is not just the logistics of leadership, but also the mindset and that is what this table of high-level thinkers was grappling with.

What is going on from my point of view?  Remember prior to the world shutting down when we used to talk about VUCA?  Wow!  We had no idea what we were even capable of then!  We have come so far, yet we can still start to drift towards old ways of thinking.  The three things I am seeing will not revert back and we need to help leaders need to rally around are:

  • Being agile because the ground is always shifting.  In today’s world leaders are more exposed now than they have ever been before and they are feeling it.  They are having to make rapid and (somewhat) informed decisions amid so much uncertainty.  Gone are the days when leaders could make decisions from muscle memory and their years of experience – using the power of their high-performing teams to co-create solutions is key now more so than ever.  Being able to have other peers that you can discuss some of these challenges might be one way to get innovative in this space.
  • A human approach to staff that puts people first.  Leadership, more than ever, is about creating the conditions in which your people can thrive and perform at their best.  Leaders need to be aware of their own biases towards different ways of working, re-examine various populations of workers that have been underutilized in the past, and role-modeling the right behaviors to break the culture of “having to be present”, while also taking accountability for re-assessing how current policies and processes will disadvantage certain types of workers.  Being able to conduct professional audits and/or engage in coaching to advance your approach to leadership is definitely indicated here.
  • The ability to build inclusive and connected hybrid teams.  One of the biggest needs we are hearing about right now is being able to manage remote teams.  Communication, collaboration, innovation, and building relationships with each other are such a challenge.  While some sales teams have worked this way for years, other teams are just now getting up to speed and, while there are benefits, are also seeing disconnection and lower job satisfaction.  There is a myth out there that the younger generation doesn’t want to come back.  To be honest, we are seeing the opposite – they miss that social interaction!  So getting comfortable with technology and potentially investing in more in-person work pods or off-site opportunities are some examples of the new ways of thinking that leaders are tasked with.

Why Steople?

What was remarkable about sitting around this table was the depth of the conversation at hand.  This was a group of individuals that did not know one another before this event, but they absolutely opened up and discussed some of the most pressing pain points in their own companies freely.  We ended the lunch by asking them what they sought out of a partnership with a company like us.  It warmed my heart that what Steople on the other side of the planet brought was insight, perspective, and a richness of resources.  Partnering with skilled professionals who brought both science and practical business knowledge to accelerate learning and change throughout each organization had been invaluable.  Our value proposition is there for you – deep relationships, research of best practices, and pragmatic solutions.  As always, we are here for you and your leadership journey.  We want nothing more than to see you succeed!

This last week I attended the annual professional association conference that I’ve been a part of since 2008.  I look forward to it every year seeing the smiling faces of so many colleagues. One of the keynotes we were lucky enough to hear from this year was award-winning reporter, editor, and producer Dwayne Bray of ESPN.  Over the past 20 years, he has written and produced some of the most important sports stories.  As we listened to stories about Bryant Gumbel and Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, among others…then he began to take questions.

One of the questions asked was about the lack of diversity at the top of the NFL coaching ranks.  Just to be clear, 70% of the players are black, there is one black coach and no black team owners. Just today I caught the story of the football commissioner talking about this exact subject. As I listened, I became curious about the NFL as a business.  As many of you know, I am a huge football fan…enough that my “girl’s” trip this January was going to see the LA Rams play the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium in LA. It was a blast and, of course, this weekend we will all be watching the Superbowl! But as I paused and put on my consultant hat…I asked myself “Within this organization called the National Football League, what do they get right or wrong?” and “How did the two high-performing teams within this organization playing in the Superbowl rise to the top?”

When you begin to really analyze an organization’s goals and strategy, one of the first things you want to look at it is Core Values.  What you want to see are values that really resonate, aren’t stale, and that live in the language of the leaders of the organization.  This is what was posted on the National Football League’s website:

1.    Respect – Everyone matters.  Everyone contributes. We celebrate diverse opinions and perspectives.
2.    Integrity – We do the right thing when no one is looking, and even if it’s unpopular when they are looking.
3.    Responsibility to Team – As a team, we support one another.  We depend on one another. Everything we do has a consequence for someone else.
4.    Resiliency – Everyone matters. Everyone contributes.  We turn losses into lessons.

Overall, if this was an organization that I was consulting with, I would say these seem consistent with what you hear NFL leaders aspire to.  But I would want to understand how they “live” in the organization by looking at policies, talent management practices, community outreach, and their strategy.

Now, just like any organization…sometimes the NFL gets it right and sometimes they get it wrong.  Over time, some of the charges that people have leveled at the NFL is that it favors the owners over the players and fans (ticket prices), that they play favorites with some player and team infractions, they lack making player’s safety a priority, and their stand on player protests, drugs, and domestic violence is not where it should be.  It didn’t feel right to talk about the Superbowl hype without mentioning these issues as well.  These problems are something that many organizations struggle with and try to find a way to overcome.

The most important part of any organization are the teams that operate within it.  This Sunday we will see the top two teams in the NFL organization battle it out on the field.  Those two teams have a couple of great quarterbacks in Joe Burrows for the Bengals and Matthew Stafford for the Rams. As you have probably heard from me before, leaders are about 70% of the impact on the culture of a team.  So, what are some of the traits that got these two leaders to the highest stage?

As I researched these two quarterbacks there were three traits that really set each of them apart.  When we work within companies, we are constantly looking for those people either already in the organization or those looking to be hired that are high potential, high performing individuals.  The three traits I chose to highlight here are more hard-wired in nature vs. those developed over time.  As you read through this, be thinking about what traits you bring to the table in your own roles.

Matthew Stafford is the quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. He played college football at Georgia, where he was a first-team All-American, and was selected first overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft.  These are the top three strengths he is bringing into the Superbowl:

1.    Focused 
As the Rams begins preparation for this weekend’s game with walk-through practices, Stafford is shutting out the Super Bowl hype, leaving ticket requests to his wife Kelly and the team, and keeping his mind focused solely on the game. “Dive into the football as much as you possibly can,” he said of his approach. “My biggest thing is, don’t look at the calendar. Whatever the day is, go out there and execute as best you can.” This is nothing new for Stafford.  Over the years, he has always stated that his only focus is his family and football.
2.    Humble 
Those who are closest to leaders know what their strengths are.  The Ram’s head coach, Sean McVay recently reflected on Stafford.  “I think one of the unique things about Matthew as you get to know him is, he’s just always being himself.  I heard Dan Orlovsky, ESPN analyst, speak about Matthew. He said he has got a great way about him when he walks into a room.  You know he is THE man, but he can also be one of the guys.  He’s got great confidence, but also a sense of humility that comes with that. He just has a great feel for people and that’s just who he is.” On top of that he and his wife, Kelly, have quietly given away millions of dollars to education, food banks, and social justice causes.
3.    Courageous 
Throughout Stafford’s entire career, he has exhibited courage and competitive spirit through his play on the field while enduring numerous injuries. A Lion’s former trainer to Stafford said “Over the course of my time in sports medicine, he stands out for always maintaining selflessness and a professional approach to game preparation and play on game day.” He isn’t afraid to put himself on the line for the team. He also isn’t afraid to speak up. Running back Cam Akers said Stafford is a great communicator and leader, and it’s not difficult to understand what he’s trying to say or what he’s trying to accomplish as a result. “He’s very clear-cut,” Akers said. “He’ll let you know what he wants you to do, or what you’re doing wrong or what you’re doing right.”  Not to mention the fact that he and his wife, Kelly, mother to his four children, courageously battled her brain tumor diagnosis several years ago.

Joe Burrow is the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL and was the first player to win the Heisman Trophy, win the National Championship, and go 1st overall. He was chosen by the Bengals as first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.  Here are his top three strengths:

1.    Calm
There is a certain image that Burrow portrays. He’s inherently cool. And by cool, not trendy or aloof. According to everything I read,  he presents as entirely unselfconscious while remaining self-aware. Burrow moves through the world without fear — the Bengals made it this far even though their quarterback was sacked more than any other QB this season. He takes it upon himself to scramble and extend plays. “We never take him for granted,” his coach Zac Taylor said. “But there’s a lot of impressive things he does that maybe aren’t as impressive to us anymore because we’re just used to it, and it’s kind of his standard, his greatness. But again, we need to step back and always take a moment to appreciate what we’ve got there at that quarterback position.

2.    Tough
Toughness is one of Burrow’s best leadership qualities. “I think Joe thinks deep down he’s a linebacker,” said the Bengal’s head coach Zac Taylor. “That’s what he thinks. And that’s kinda how he plays sometimes, and I gotta hold my breath when he plays that way. But that’s just the mentality he has. And he’s the son of a coach. He’s grown up around football, he’s grown up around being tough and then understanding what toughness is, how that can help you as a leader. “You don’t always have to just be the most vocal guy yelling and screaming at everybody. You lead through toughness; you lead through knowing what you’re going to do and accomplishing the task that you’re supposed to accomplish. And Joe does that. He’s our linebacker playing quarterback right now, and the team really responds and feeds off of that.”

3.    Confident 
It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to be confident on the field.  But, Burrow is also confident and strong off the field.  Burrow consistently speaks out against social and racial injustice in America. “How can you hear the pain Black people are going through and dismiss it as nothing,” he tweeted. “How can you hear the pain and respond with anything other than ‘I stand with you.’” He really does have that attitude of feeling confident in himself , taking a stand, and not really caring what others think.  “It never seems like it is forced,” Sam Hubbard, defensive end, said of Burrow’s confidence. “It was always natural, just his leadership and the way he carries himself. So I think from day one, when he walked into the building, people could tell that this was our franchise quarterback.”

In the end, whether you watch the Superbowl this weekend for the football, the commercials, or the half-time show, I ask you to reframe the NFL as a business.  What do you see them doing well or not so well?  How do you stack up in leadership skills (not football skills!) with those high performers on the field?  Is there something you need to tweak or change within your organization or team to be more effective? Someone once said, “In life, as in football, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are”.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend and let’s go Rams!

Last week I was on a Zoom coaching call with a CEO and we began to discuss core values.  We didn’t start out talking about core values, but when this leader recounted various conversations she had with people in his organization core values became evident.  She is from the east coast, highly task-driven,  and extremely intelligent.  When she promises something or is contacted by people in the organization she feels it is her duty to respond appropriately to requests in a timely fashion. ..or listen when there are issues…or deliver on what she said she would do.  However, people within the organization don’t always reciprocate.  She relayed times that she would sit in meetings with a tack in her hand trying to contain her frustration.  Being at a loss of how to embed in the culture the same treatment she had shown.  Feeling as if she wasn’t quite up to this leadership task and feeling like she wasn’t driving the intended culture in an efficient way.  This is where core values came into play and the fact that the reason it was so upsetting is that “respect” was clearly one of her core values.  Not in a hierarchical kind of way.  She treated everyone the same – priority didn’t rest with the Executive Team it was distributed all the way from her team to the person who cleaned the floors at night.  No exceptions.  When people didn’t give her that in return a very important core value was being dismissed.

Over the past 15 years, I have worked with both individuals and organizations in understanding, owning, and communicating what their unique core values are.  Invariably, respect rises to the surface and is considered at the top of the list by most.  What does respect mean?  In Webster’s Dictionary, it is stated as “a feeling of admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements”.  When speaking on core values, I often tell people that if there is an event that directly goes against their values (values conflict) then, typically there is an over exaggerated reaction (generally a trigger of anger) because values are actually being stepped on.  Keep in mind that the opposite of respect is disrespect which is “low regard or esteem for someone or something”.  The key is becoming very self-aware of your own impact so that you don’t inadvertently negatively impact someone by stepping on the value of respect while also understanding that the reason you may be having an “overreaction”, similar to the story above, is because your values aren’t being honored either.

Now, for me, respect is high on my list of values…so if you want to fire me up, be disrespectful of others.  I witnessed recently in a TSA line at the airport – surprise, right?  But it’s not what you think – it was actually a passenger that was disrespectful of a TSA agent who was just trying to do their job.  There I was at 5:00 a.m. in the morning, before my first cup of coffee, getting myself worked up about this little word – respect – and having to “go to bat” for the TSA agent.  To me, there is value in every single person’s job and no one is entitled over another.

So why am I even bringing this subject up?  According to a study on the price of incivility reported by Harvard Business Review, employees who experienced rude or disrespectful behavior at work intentionally decreased their work effort, spent less time at work, decreased the quality of their work, and felt less committed to the organization.  As one of my favorite quotes says “Leaders bring the weather”.  You as a leader in your organization need to have a firm understanding of respect and, if it is important to you, cultivate a culture of respect in your organization.

Two Types – Owed and Earned
When you ask workers what matters most to them, feeling respected by superiors often tops the list.  Turns out there are two types of respect.  The first one is owed respect.  This is simply the way that people are treated with a level of civility, with basic regard that is professional, and that is decent. The second type is earned respect. Earned respect is something that’s recognized as valued achievements, valued attributes of a particular person that gives them a chance to be unique, to stand out in a positive way.

Those two types of respect meet different universal needs that we have. Owed respect, when you receive that, it helps you to feel like you belong somewhere like you are accepted, where earned respect is much more about status; it’s about positive regard or positive recognition. Both are two basic drivers and needs that most humans share.  This fact tells you how important this subject is to your work culture.

You Need Balance
Something to ask yourself as a leader is are these two types of respect balanced in my organization?  If it is out of balance the following symptoms might be present in your organization:

An imbalance can create frustration for workers. For example, workplaces with lots of owed respect but little earned respect can make individual achievement a low priority for employees, because they perceive that everyone will be treated the same regardless of performance. That could be the right mix for settings in which goals need to be accomplished as a team, but it risks reducing motivation and accountability on an individual level.

By contrast, workplaces with low owed respect but high earned respect can encourage excessive competition among employees. That may serve a purpose in environments, such as some sales forces, where workers have little interdependence or reason to collaborate. But it could hinder people from sharing critical knowledge about their successes and failures, and it often promotes cutthroat, zero-sum behavior. When they understand these nuances, leaders can craft an environment that is right for their situation—in most cases, one with high levels of both kinds of respect.

Three Actions You Can Take to Embed Respect

1.Establish a Baseline of Owed Respect
Every employee should feel that his or her dignity is recognized and respected. This is especially important for entry-level workers. In a study of being valued or devalued at work, many hospital cleaners described seemingly subtle cues that prompted them to feel that their worth was enhanced or diminished. Some cleaners were never acknowledged by other staff members, making them feel invisible or as though they were looking in on hospital operations from the outside. Others reported a boost in energy and worth from a doctor simply greeting them or holding a door.

Take a moment to consider whether your professional status is keeping you from perceiving a gap in respect and note that simple acknowledgment or praise from a leader is often enough to make an employee feel valued.  People in the organization are watching you and will take cues from your behavior.

2.Customize How To Convey Respect in Your Own Culture
We can all shape an environment where colleagues reinforce respectful cues and make social worth a day to day reality for one another. Research points to specific behaviors that convey respect, such as active listening and valuing diverse backgrounds and ideas. For leaders, delegating important tasks, remaining open to advice, giving employees the freedom to pursue creative ideas, taking an interest in their non-work lives, and publicly backing them in critical situations are some of the behaviors that impart respect.

Pay attention to norms about how to convey respect, they may vary, even from department to department within one organization. Be sure to be authentic and have a sincere desire to connect, listen, and trust your team.  Ensure that respect is not aspirational but is one of your most dearly held beliefs in the culture.

3. See Respect as a Time Saver, Not a Time Waster
Conveying respect doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of critical tasks.  Christine Porath, author of “Civility in the Workplace” calls lack of time for showing civility a “hollow excuse,” pointing out that respect is largely about embedding it in our normal interactions.  It can be as simple as communicating in appreciative ways, being present to others, and affirming others’ value to the company.  Still worried about wasting time?  Dr. Porath estimates that dealing with the aftermath of disrespectful behaviors consumes seven weeks a year for leaders and executives.

Become very cognizant of how much time you are spending on relationships vs. tasks.  Take initial first steps and slow down to build respectful interactions in your culture – remember 70% of the culture in an organization is driven by leadership.  Being very explicit about what behaviors promote a culture of respect is key to making it the “norm” vs. the “exception.

Have a great week and let us know about this blog and any other topics you would like to hear from us on!