Being respectful doesn’t just benefit you — it benefits your employees as well. There’s one thing that leaders need to demonstrate to everyone: respect. No other leadership behavior has a bigger effect on employees. However, even when leaders know that showing respect is critical, many struggle to demonstrate it. If you’re one of those leaders, consider the following steps from Harvard Business Review:
Ask for focused feedback on your best behaviors. Collect feedback via email from about ten people (coworkers, friends, family, etc.) Ask each for positive examples of your best behavior. When and how have they seen you treat people well? After compiling the feedback, try to organize the data by summarizing and categorizing it into themes. For example, create a table with columns for commonality, examples (of the behavior), and your thoughts. You might also use Wordle.net to identify themes (you’ll also get a colorful picture that can serve as a reminder of you at your best, most civil self). Then, look for patterns. When, where, how, with whom are you at your best? Use your insights to reinforce what you’re doing well. Be mindful of additional opportunities to be your best civil self. Leverage your interpersonal strengths.
Discover your shortcomings. Gather candid feedback from your colleagues and friends not only on what you’re doing that conveys respect, but also on how you can improve. Specifically, what are your shortcomings? Identify a couple of trusted colleagues who have the best intentions for you and your organization. These are folks who you believe will provide direct and honest feedback. Ask for their views about how you treat other people. What do you do well? What could you do better? Listen carefully.
If you don’t feel comfortable enlisting the feedback of your entire team, you can also ask a trusted direct report to gather feedback within the organization about whether you (the leader) consistently demonstrate civility; and what situations may trigger uncivil behavior.
Work with a coach. Coaches can uncover potential weaknesses through surveying and interviewing those with whom you work, and may shadow you at meetings and events to pick up on subtleties including non-verbal behavior. A skilled coach may unearth some of the underlying assumptions, experiences, and personal qualities that make one prone to uncivil behavior.
Ask, specifically, how you can improve. Once you have clarity on which behaviors you want to improve (first), gather information from others about how best to go about this. This is a terrific way to gather specific ideas for improving your behavior. The process:
- Describe your goal clearly and simply to anyone you know.
- Ask for two suggestions. Encourage creative ideas.
- Listen carefully. Write the suggestions down.
- Respond with “thank you.” Nothing more. No excuses or defensiveness.
- Repeat by asking additional people.