A culture of respect creates the glue for lasting relationships

Where a culture of trust is the foundation of a successful company as addressed in my previous post, a culture of respect can be viewed as the walls protecting you and your team from the harsh elements, keeping your employees and customers loyal, supportive and productive.

Respect is the glue for strong, lasting relationships. It’s an ingredient to grow self-worth and confidence in your employees. Confident employees, in turn, are pro-active and innovative, actively participating in growing the company, and therefore, also your profits.  Respect is what empowers people and breeds a culture of continuous improvement.  And the culture of continuous improvement, promises longevity and success, something that every company aspires to.

The essence of the Merriam-Webster definition of respect is that when you respect someone, you view them as important. It doesn’t have anything to do with your role in the organization. Rather, it is a reflection of how important or valuable you view the people you interact with. Whether you are interacting with a peer, a superior, or a customer, your behaviour tells them how valuable you view them.  The more valuable they feel the more likely they will be to help you succeed.

How can you display the value of respect when interacting with others?

1. Be present

The greatest gift you can give someone is giving them your full attention. Your uninterrupted presence reflects that nothing is more important than them right now. That is the strongest form of respect.

When someone wants to speak to you, put down anything that can distract you and make eye contact throughout the conversation. Focus only on the person in front of you and what they have to say.

You will grow mutual respect, and by not needing to revisit previously discussed topics, find yourself being more productive.

2. Listen to find the reason behind the words

I used to get frustrated with people constantly complaining about seemingly unimportant, and often what I considered to be irrelevant things.  Then one day I realized that I was the one in the wrong by not listening.

Like that annoying little voice in the back of your head that simply won’t keep quiet, the more you ignore it, the louder it gets. It only keeps quiet when you finally surrender and give it the attention it needs. Always telling you something really important that could have saved a lot of frustration and effort.

I came to realize that it is only complaining if you don’t listen to the underlying issue.

Since I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t told me something relevant and valuable. It sometimes means I have to go back and think about it, but never has a repeated message, especially if it comes from different sources, is unimportant.  Always has it been a valuable puzzle piece that I was looking for.

Listening to someone makes them feel important, as if what they say matters. It means they are contributing to the company and that their contribution is valuable. It means that they have a purpose, and everyone needs a purpose.

Make a point of listening to the people around you and try to find the reason behind their words. The more emotion is evoked by the conversation, the more important it is to listen carefully.

3. Be thoughtfully thankful

There is immense power in the word “thank you”. An authentic “thank you” is like a magnet that attracts respect.

Make a habit of acknowledging people’s efforts, without overusing them or diluting the value of the words.  As opposed to looking for what is wrong or can be improved, look at what is going right and say thank you. Take the time at the start of the meeting to thank the people for attending. Thank the person who gets up and closes the door when everyone else sits waiting for someone else to do it.  Thank people when they switch off their phones when listening to you speak.

Reward the behaviors you want to see rather than punishing unwanted behaviors.

When saying thank you, avoid a generic overuse of the words. Be specific about what you are thankful for, acknowledge the effort that went into it, and explicitly state how it made a difference in your life. It is valuable feedback to the recipient and will ensure that you don’t lose the authenticity of overusing the word.

4. React and respond

Not responding to someone is probably one of the most disrespectful things you can do. You might not intentionally ignore someone, but by not responding you are sending a message that they are not important.

To earn someone’s respect you need to reciprocate their effort to engage. It only takes a few seconds to hit the reply button and respond with a one-liner acknowledging the sender, even if it is telling them that you can’t respond now.

Make a point to respond when people interact with you, even when you feel overwhelmed or are busy. When you receive a lot of information at a meeting that you can’t digest immediately, say that you will need time to think it over rather than keeping them wondering whether you heard or even care what was said. Or when you don’t know how to respond or what to say, simply and honestly admit it.  “I don’t know what to say”. You won’t look weak, you will look human, and the people you will feel more empowered and compassionate.  It’s not your job as a leader to know all the answers, rather it is to know how to get all the answers, and sometimes that means asking someone else.

Reacting and responding means you value the other person’s opinion, and that builds respect.

5. Treasure time

Time is one of the most valuable commodities of our time. We sell our time each workday and cherish our time spending it only with people we regard as special. Wasting someone’s time is thus one of the worst forms of disrespect.

Don’t make someone wait, and never be late for meetings or appointments. Make sure that you include a clear meeting objective when scheduling the meeting and only invite people who can contribute to the discussion.  It shows respect if it is clear that you’ve put thought into what needs to be discussed and who should be involved, with the added benefit of a more productive meeting.

More is the opposite of better when it comes to meetings.

Limit meetings to the minimum amount of time and when it becomes clear that people are unprepared or don’t have enough information to productively continue, cancel and reschedule rather than filling the time.

Finally, don’t interrupt people unnecessarily when it is obvious that they are in the middle of something.  Make sure that what you are about to say adds value to both parties and wait for an opportunity that wouldn’t disrupt the person’s thinking or activity.


Respect means that you value the other person and deem them to be important.  Respecting someone can be as simple as being present and listening to what they have to say, being on time for meetings, and saying thank you.

You will notice that nowhere does a show of respect mean always saying yes. Saying yes when you mean no is far from being respectful and causes resentment.  Strong relationships are built on trust,  respect, and honesty.

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With more than 20 years experience in the software development industry, Kate specializes in helping teams get unstuck, communicate better and ultimately be more productive. She believes in efficiency through fun implementing lean, agile and playful design as tools for process improvement and organizational change. Her goal is to create more happy, healthy and whole workplaces where each person thrives and productivity soars.