Respect for the Institution

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Below is another excerpt from my book, Leading Leaders: Empowering, Motivating, and Inspiring Teams. When we discuss “respect” we rightly speak about respect between individuals, but we also need to have respect for the institutions and teams where we work.

Not to be overlooked, there is one aspect of “respect” that deserves a little attention, and that is respect for the institution to which one belongs. The leader must demand that respect, and model it through his own behavior. Just like any other breach of respect, a lack of respect to the institution where a person works is cancerous. If allowed to grow, that lack of respect can kill the body. In short, if you can’t respect the institution, then get another institution.

Respect for the institution looks very similar to respect between individuals, and like an interpersonal relationship, it cannot be forced. And just like an interpersonal relationship, deeds are more important than words. All the fancy logos and motivational posters cannot make up for treating people fairly, and having transparent human resources policies. People must have confidence that the organization where they work is something they want to be a part of, a place where they feel valued, and where they are respected. Their workplace as an organization must be a place where “HR” is not a dirty word!

Living the Organization’s Values

In the best possible case, people will take on the organization’s values because those values are something to which they want to aspire. Companies get a reputation for being great places to work for a number of reasons, but usually boil down to things like fair compensation, the ability for managers to be flexible, and empowering employees to make decisions about their careers.  Respect for the institution is just as important as respect for between teammates. If employees don’t respect their company, it’s likely they won’t respect the company’s customers, or their own fellows. That’s a recipe for a very unhappy and unproductive work environment.

The Best Companies to Work For

For example, according to CNN Money Magazine, the top three companies to work for in 2012 were Google, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and SAS Institute. Employees at all three companies reported they felt valued by leadership, their work was meaningful, their pay is good, and that the workplace was a fun place to work. Google’s success as an organization is legendary: good pay, self-paced work, and plenty of free food. BCG has a focus on work-life balance, including requiring their employees to take time off, which demonstrates they value their employees’ well being as much as they value their productivity. SAS has a number of programs emphasizing the value of their employees’ well-being, including subsidized Montessori childcare, intramural sports leagues, and unlimited sick time. All three of these companies value their employees, and prove that through their HR policies. What’s more, the leaders themselves model the behavior they require of their employees.

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Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. Mickey is the author of eight books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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Internal Compass, External Orientation

Posted 8 CommentsPosted in Leading Leaders

Adherence to systems of ethics demands an internal compass oriented on an external fixed point. This is very important; because without some external orientation for the internal compass, many people will rationalize almost any behavior.

We begin using words like honor, and duty. We examine a person’s behavior based on honesty, and truthfulness. Perhaps most importantly, we do not allow a person to “re-define” themselves or their behavior out of violating those ethics they accepted. In short, we know very well what the meaning of “is” is. 

Ultimately, that’s what honor codes and professional ethics do for the individual and the community: they provide a “north star” to orient ethical decision making.  Each person experiences life slightly differently, and if left open to each person’s private interpretation, ethical decisions can vary greatly from person to person.  The ethical leader uses an informed conscience and an external measure to be certain he’s on the right course.

Ronald Reagan on Character & Leadership

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading Leaders, Quotes by Famous Leaders

President Ronald Reagan sums up the idea of the fundamental nature of character and what it takes to make good decisions as a leader.  In a May 1993 speech to the cadets at The Citadel in South Carolina, Reagan said:

The character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined. It has been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the little choices of years past…by all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation…whispering the lie that it really doesn’t matter. It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made when life seemed easy and crises seemed far away…the decisions that, piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits of discipline or of laziness, habits of self-sacrifice or of self-indulgence, habits of duty and honor and integrity-or dishonor and shame.

In reflecting on this statement from President Reagan, it’s important to recognize that he wasn’t necessarily speaking about heroes or larger than life figures, although those words could certainly fit the heroes in our midst.  He was talking about the common person, and the idea that people rarely “rise to the occasion;” rather most people fall into habits and thought patterns where they’re comfortable.  That’s why seemingly unimportant decisions can become the building blocks of character, for good or bad. We have to remember that as leaders we are always “out front.”