Thursday, April 10, 2008

Respect for People Helps Improve Balance

A very difficult subject is respect.

Leaders want to be respected and their people want to be respected as well.

It is very easy to become so focused upon the mission that people become tools to achieve a goal and are therefore devalued as the most important part of the team. I use a simple memory device to describe the difference between a leader and a manager. Leaders lead people and managers manage things. When leaders lose focus of this little idea, they are in trouble of losing the team.

People are not tools. People are not objects. People are people. They each come equipped with wonderful talents and capabilities. Leaders must resist the tendency to devalue people and talk about them in terms of resources or billets or positions. There are faces and families attached to those impersonal concepts.

Leaders need to deal with people differently. Leaders must recognize that when the team is working late, there are family events being changed or missed. When business trips happen, there are many other people who are being affected. This stresses the people and may impact optimal performance. It may contribute to burn out.

It isn't all about the job--hopefully, we a working to live and not living to work. In my own adult life, I have made the decision to accept a salary cut to take a new job because the net quality of life improvement outweighed the value of the additional income. People are making these kinds of decisions everyday. Sometimes they are too afraid of the unknown to make a change, but then their stress over feeling not in control of their lives will negatively impact the team and others around them.

What are some examples that in certain circumstances could be construed as lack of respect for the people part of the team equation?

- Calling a mandatory meeting for 4:30 PM which will definitely go until after 6PM (and most people are off by 5PM).

- Emailing a team member a task overnight and expecting it in place for an 11 AM function--hoping they check their personal email before they come to work.

- In volunteer organizations, not understanding that some people are working 45-50 hours or more per week at their main job and then devoting then next best part of themselves to the volunteer organization.

- Constant short notice meetings without published agendas so the team members can prepare in advance and make the meeting productive

- Line of sight tasking.

- Believing that the reward for good work is less punishment.

- Sending someone on a trip when you know there are important personal events planned.

A wise person once told me--when you leave the organization you are in, who is really going to remember you after five years. You have your family with you your whole life and five years after you leave that company, if you are mindful of them, you will still have your family.

Good leaders understand that their workers or volunteers are trying to achieve balance in their lives. I remember The Karate Kid movies in which the wise sage taught Daniel-san about balance and lives being in or out of balance. Leaders need to help those around them achieve balance. Look for the warning signs that the lives of your people are out of balance: divorces, stress, illnesses, short fuses in discussions.

Respect those around you. Sure, there are going to be those times when everyone needs to pull together to achieve a goal, but it should not be an "every minute of every day and then some" environment. Be sensitive to the families and friends behind your people and to the drivers in their lives. Then, when the team really needs it--they'll be there and be happy about pulling together to achieve something really important.

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