‘Respect for people’ is one of the foundational practices of Lean. As well, the topic of ‘respect’ is one I hear discussed often in all types of organizations. But what does ‘respect’ and ‘respect for people’ really mean? In many of the organizations I’ve worked with (and for) and in many business-related articles I read, respect for people at work seems to be defined as ‘hire great people and get out of their way and let them do their job’. I’ve also heard a version of this from employees working in a variety of organizations: “I know my boss respects and trusts me because they leave me alone to do my work.”
Although this might sound good on the outside (and a lot less work for managers and leaders!), I find it quite problematic. And here’s why:
Because, in most of the organizations I’ve worked with, the other most-often discussed topic is ‘accountability’. How do we make sure that things are getting done, and that people are doing what they need to do? If there’s no ‘accountability’ then leaders are frustrated because work doesn’t get done and goals are unmet, and employees are equally frustrated because new initiatives seem to come along, get going and then fizzle out, often without success.
And why do they fizzle out unsuccessfully? Often because leadership has simply failed to ‘check-in with’ people. Not check on them, to point a finger or blame them if they’re not ‘hitting the target’ or getting results, but to ‘check-in with’ them, to help them learn to work in new ways, put new concepts into practice and remove obstacles and barriers success.
‘Checking in with’ people shows them that you care about them. Not just as employees, but as human beings! Because the people who work for us aren’t ‘resources’ or FTE’s (full-time-equivalents) or ‘heads’…they’re human beings who come to work each day eager to satisfy customers and to contribute their particular and unique strengths, skills and perspectives to help their organization reach its goals and fulfill its purpose.
So, if you’re a leader, here’s your challenge! How can you ‘check-in’ frequently (yes – even every day!) with each of your team members? ‘Check in with’ them to show them that you care about them and value their work (as I so often say: what we spend our time on is what we value)? ‘Check-in with’ them to show them that you are accountable for making sure they have what they need to be successful? ‘Check-in with’ them to help them develop their critical thinking and creative problem-solving abilities so they can continuously learn and grow – as employees and human beings?
‘Checking in’ frequently is one of the best ways that I know to show your people that you truly respect them!
And special thanks to Doug Wotherspoon at Algonquin College for inspiring this post! You’re doing a great job ‘checking in’!
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