THE BLOG
07/07/2010 04:57 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Do You Earn or Deserve Respect?

I've seen it a lot and must say, I find it odd -- ineffective managers struggling with the frustration of not being able to get their employees to perform the way they want them to and further, not knowing what to do about it. I can recall having conversations with my own direct reports over the years inquiring as to why things weren't getting done or moving forward. They, in turn would complain that their staffers just didn't give them the respect they "deserved." It was such a distorted answer, and I got it all the time.

For some reason, there was (and still is) an implicit assumption that because one person was "over" another, the "higher" person would automatically be treated with unconditional, unwavering deference. Maybe that was true during the agricultural and industrial ages, but even then, it wasn't respect, it was control and those days are gone. In order to be effective, managers need to see the difference between deserving respect and earning it, because motivating someone has nothing to do with position and title, but rather how one behaves -- period.

That said, for managers who want respect, remember that it does not automatically come with the job. It's the person, not the position that people admire. And it's behavior, not title that impresses them to act.

Consistency: You must be consistent. You can't show one "face" to one group or level in the organization and another to the people who report to you. It screams "two-faced," which quickly turns to lack of trust for anyone who witnesses it. Without trust, people will not feel safe working for you. As a result, you'll get little from them and more likely, nothing at all.

Fairness: Don't play favorites. You must apply the same rules to everyone and give people the benefit of the doubt -- equally.

Freedom: Respect begets respect and trust begets trust. If you want people to trust and respect you, you must trust and respect them first. If you try to control people, they will resist your very presence. Healthy productive people don't like to be constrained by someone who needs to exercise a false sense of power.

So the next time you wonder why people aren't listening to you, ask yourself what you've done lately to engage their attention. The belief that people should do something simply because "you're the boss and you said so," is just not enough.

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