When Your People Don’t Respect You – Part II
What do you do when your people don’t respect you? Being “assertive” may temporarily cause people to leap into action. But it will not foster trust or respect for yourself as a leader. After all, would you respect this guy…
- Never give an order that you don’t know will be obeyed. Of course, I don’t like the words “order” or “obey” in the context of Servant Leadership. This is what General Douglas MacArthur said, “Never give an order that can’t be obeyed.” Yes, the boisterous and outright aggressive General of World War II said it. Think about it, if an Army General has to think about the orders he gives, how much more do others in non-military settings?
So what do I mean by this? Before you ask people to help you with something, you need to know them well enough to know whether they feel good about doing it. Can they do it? Would they want to do it? Do they like to do it?
Oh yes, if you thought leadership was about thinking up an idea and just telling people to get it done, you are in for an unpleasant reality – failure.
- “Ask” people to “help” you. Don’t “tell” them to “do” it. Strong leadership is gentle leadership. Here is what I recommend you say:
- “Can I have you help me with this…(fill in the blank)?
- “Would you mind taking care of this…(fill in the blank)?
- “When you have a moment, could you help me with this…(fill in the blank)?
Now you may say that “when I say that, my people treat me as if I am begging, as if they have the power.”
If you are at that stage in the relationship, one of two things is the issue:
- The boundaries are not defined, or
- The relationship is in the tank.
And both of these can and should be fixed ASAP, one-on-one.
Here is the bottom line…
You should not be in positions where you feel that “you need to be assertive.” When I have these feelings, I know something has to change urgently. Either a relationship needs to be built, or I have to go, or they have to go. Period.
It can be highly frustrating when your people don’t respect you. Still, I never want to feel that I have to “force people” to do anything. I want to do it with them. I want them to care about me and love what we are doing so much, that this is never an issue. I never want to tell them what to do, I want “us” to be doing this together. This does not happen overnight. However, it should be our goal as leaders to get to that place.
A few years ago, a person working with us disliked me so much that they did not look at me when I passed by. They even ignored my “Hello, how are you’s?” They just completely refused to talk to me. I did not think that was right, professional, and definitely not in keeping with the company spirit we had tried to build.
At the beginning of my leadership journey, I would have been so upset, so frustrated, felt so disrespected, and down right livid. Now, I view these instances very differently. Honestly, I don’t like them (no leader does). But they are more proof of my inability to be a better leader (picking the right people, connecting with them, and ensuring they are coming on board), than proof that this is a “defiant” or “bad” person.
At the end of the day, that person is a human being too. They want the same things I want in life – happiness, meaning, and security. They may act a certain way because that is the best they can do at the moment. I am not their mother or father. I consider them a partner, and you know sometimes partners don’t see eye-to-eye. As partners, we build a relationship. We communicate in a healthy way, and sometimes we decide to part ways. But the heart of it for me is that we are partners – there is something in this for both of us.
If you missed Part I, you can catch it here. Next week we will conclude our series When Your People Don’t Respect You with Part III. In the meantime, I encourage you to consider what you require of your people and be willing to partner with them to get it done.
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