How many times have you heard lean advocates ramble on about how respecting people is a key tenet of the vaunted Toyota Production System? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this AND written it myself here on LSS Academy.
And while it’s true… respecting people is mandatory…what does this really mean?
How exactly do you respect people? It may sound like a simple question but I contend it’s anything but simple.
With this said, I hope to share some of my thoughts on some practical things we can all do starting today to respect people no matter if our job title is Senior Vice President or Mom.
1. Look at people when they talk to you
Have you ever been asked to come to someone’s big office for a meeting only to find them checking their Blackberry or email more than actually listening to you? This is NOT respecting people.
So, the next time you engage in a conversation – even a short one at the water cooler – look the person in the eyes when they’re speaking to you. If this means closing the lid of your laptop or putting your Crackberry in your desk drawer with the ringer and vibrate function turned off… do it.
2. Listen. Really Listen.
And as you’re looking the person in the eyes listen to them. Really listen. Often times this requires you to say a few things back that actually contain some substance.
3. Don’t always agree
Some think that to be respectful you can never disagree. This is ridiculous. My old boss at Nokia used to tell his management team that if all 8 of us agreed he had 7 too many people in the room. So true.
4. Don’t simply disagree to justify your existence
With this said, don’t attempt to always find at least one thing to disagree on in attempts to somehow feel like you’re justifying your existence.
If you agree with a point and can’t add anything to it… just say something like, “Sounds great. You’ve obviously done your homework. Let me know if I can help.”
5. Engage the Gemba
Another favorite we lean practitioners like to talk about is genchi genbutsu, which literally means to go to the place the work is done to see with your own eyes.
There are many benefits to this… but one that doesn’t get enough press, in my opinion, is that by going to the gemba you’re able to actually engage in the situation. In fact, you may be able to actually get your hands dirty while helping to solve the problem.
6. Increase the tension
One of the so called contradictions of Toyota is that they often place incredible tension throughout the organization.
This is sometimes done by setting incredibly difficult goals and targets. It’s also done by constantly preaching how the sky is falling and all associates must do their part to help the company stay in business.
So, while there must be a balance, I do think ensuring a fair share of tension exists throughout the organization is a good thing.
7. See the forest
Finally, as a leader one of the most respectful things you can do is to keep your eyes down field.
In other words, don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Because if you do bad things will eventually happen… meaning that conversation you’re having – while looking the employee in the eyes – may not be fun.
What do you think?
What other ways, dear readers, can you think of to respect people?