Respectful Rhetoric Part II

My wife and I have become fans of ABC's Designated Survivor, the fictional account of a cabinet member's ascendance to the Presidency premised on a tragic event that claimed the lives of literally all representatives of the three branches of our federal government.  In actor Kiefer Sutherland's portrayal of President Tom Kirkman we follow an idealistic account of his Executive Administration.  

A recent episode tackled the very timely and sensitive subject of monuments to the Confederacy and the give and take between the President and one of the leaders of the early Civil Rights Movement.  Watch:

The snippet is a tidy portrayal of respectful deference to a seasoned social change warrior he then returning honor to the figurative head of the free world.  By professional actors.  On television.   

How does acquiescence play out in reality, though?  Here are five brief considerations that may help.

  1. Speak to the positive about the future.  When I hear criticism about "today's culture" I find myself wondering what culture we should go back in time to.  Further, what message is that sending to our generations to follow, that we shouldn't even make the effort because we're going to hell in a hand basket?  Sure there are problems on this earth, always have been, always will be.  Yet think about it.  Through advances in medicine we are living longer than ever.  Many once fatal diseases have been eradicated.  Technology has brought us safer and more efficient means of transportation, virtual communication, and the ability for many of us to do our jobs remotely.  More than ever we seem to have a greater awareness of our responsibilities as stewards of this planet.   There is a lot of good in the world to talk about.
  2. Make the effort to learn and remember names.  And once you've learned those names become educated about a person's family, spouses and kids, interests, and hobbies.  Risk some intrusiveness keeping in mind that almost everyone is flattered when a boss knows that an employee's daughter is graduating, that a co-worker just received an award from a service club, or that Jim down the hall restores antique cars.  
  3. Ask open ended questions often.  Questions that beget more than a "yes/no" or "fine" response.  "How was your day?" becomes "Tell me about your day."  The more casual "how's it going?" converts to "what's going on?"  If you're in a management position and lead meetings at work the standard "go around the room and give a report from your section" could be "before sharing your report give us 30 seconds of good news, either work or personal."  See what that add on just did.  It prompts positive news (#1), may encourage employees to share information about themselves (#2), and is open ended (#3).  
  4. Counsel Privately.  Counsel discreetly.  The very last thing anyone wants is for their work performance to be publicly cited, advertised, or tweeted.  A coaching session between a manager and a subordinate should occur in a private setting.  I also recommend having these talks in a neutral location such as a conference room.  That way when the manager is prepared to adjourn the meeting she has the opportunity to exit the room as opposed to being trapped in her own office.  In addition maintain a sense of decorum and self control.  There may be times for shouting and yelling on a playing field, rarely if ever should it occur in a professional work environment.  
  5. Respect your employees, Respect your customers.  A core business principle at Southwest Airlines has been that if employees are treated right, they in turn will treat their customers well.  That means not being curt, blunt, or dismissive just because you're busy.  If you respond thoughtfully, both customers and employees will be more likely to demonstrate loyalty and engagement.  
Credence can again be given to the words of Benjamin Franklin:

The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all others, charity.  

The Seed Sower



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