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Keeping it safe

I DON’T think we should call them “concerns” or “issues”. Let’s call them what they are: problems.

Of course, I don’t like problems. Whenever a direct report calls me up and starts with, “Sir Nelson, we have a problem”, I feel like getting a mini-heart attack. But we have to face them. Problems.

I’ve been in toxic corporate cultures where nobody talks about problems. Heck, they even hide problems until they grow too big to be ignored. Worse, too deep-seated to be solved.

A vital part of a problem-solving culture is a safe environment where people can talk openly about… well, problems. They can bring problems to their bosses’ attention without fear of being shamed, blamed or scolded. In such a culture, nobody shoots the messenger.

While we can come up with several techniques to create such an environment, it helps to focus on one keystone mindset that will then encourage the right behavior. I am talking about respect. Yes, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, sock it to me, sock it to me! (If you recognize this as a classic Aretha Franklin song, then you are a boomer posing as a millennial. Just kidding.)

One way to explain respect is like this: Suppose we are engaged in a conversation. Then while you are talking, I cut you off and push what’s in my mind. I would be saying that you are not worth my patience and that my opinion is more important than yours. You would feel disrespected.

Respect is what you show when you acknowledge the inherent worth of the other person. Thus, the following behaviors should be the natural outflow:

  • Listen to every side.
  • Suspend judgment.
  • Permit others to make mistakes.
  • Give constructive feedback.
  • Tackle issues, not personalities.
  • Say “thank you.”
  • Say “I was wrong.”
  • Say, “You have a point.”

So where can you start? You don’t just give respect, you invest respect in other people. Treat them with kindness, appreciation, and support. Pretty soon, you will be respected in return.

What’s more, experience shows that people will come to love and trust those whom they respect. When the whole organization overflows with mutual respect, love, and trust, it will become a refreshing pool where its people have shared goals, values, language… a safe environment where problems can be threshed out and removed.

For more insights, check out linkedin.com/nelsontdy and www.nelsontdy.com. Comments or questions are welcome via nelsontdy.com@gmail.com