Main Street: Do you both get, give respect?

September 5, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of 2-part series.

Last time, we talked about the importance of giving and receiving respect at work, home and in the community. To briefly review: During a 15-month study at a company named Televerde, Kristie Rogers developed 7 tips managers can use to set the appropriate balance and amount of respect.

They were: establish a baseline of owed respect; know how to convey respect in your particular workplace; recognize that respect has ripple effects; customize the amount of earned respect you convey; think of respect as infinite; see respect as a time saver, not a time waster; and finally, know when efforts to convey respect can backfire.

An important and relatively new development in the management field is borrowed from psychology and social psychology. It is named appreciative-respectful inquiry. We all ask questions. Sometimes they simply are requesting information.

For example, where is something, what time is the event; what are we planning for today? At other times, questions might appear straightforward but can have an insidious and disrespectful quality. It is not only the words we use but the tone of voice. A boss asking a salesperson, “Where have you been?” might be showing interest in various accounts and their progress.

On the other hand, asked in an angry and suspicious voice it could foreshadow a reprimand or even a dismissal. Some other less-than-honorable reasons to ask questions include the following: to find a culprit; to embarrass and shame; to appear superior; to create fear; and to manipulate.

With appreciate or respectful inquiry the intent of questions is deliberately different in motivation. Questions are asked that search for the best in people and the organization, not just to make them feel good and appreciated, but primarily to discover what is possible, but not yet realized.

It is used as an engine of change. Dr. David Cooperrider, of Case Western Reserve University, is widely credited as the father of the appreciative inquiry movement. He and his associates indicate that it can be used in a 4D process for change. The steps include asking questions for Discovery (the best of what is); Dream (what could be); Design (what should be); Deliver-Destiny (what will be).

I want to focus on some questions that can be asked in the Discovery and Dream phases. I’ll share and illustrate three sample questions. You can create your own of course, but the ones below are a good starting point.

They can be adapted for use in a company, family or any group of people. These can be asked by bosses, employees, family members or any person of another. By their very nature they are designed to elicit more than just feel good responses.

Rather they show respect and appreciation. We do need to assure those we are asking that we genuinely want to know and that this is not the time for modesty.

First, “When we face challenges, what gets us through so we are successful and what special role do you play?” Many people have skills and abilities that we just take for granted.

Giving others the chance to highlight what they think they are best at can be an eye-opening experience for both them and us. Getting more in-depth information like this may allow further utilization of their skills in the future.

One adviser even recommends re-reading people’s resumes that you have hired in the past. Rarely, do we actually use all of a person’s special gifts and abilities. In the end, it is not about us “using” them, but rather allowing them to flourish, as positive psychologist Martin Segliman advocates.

The second question is related to the first. “How can we use your skills and abilities better?” In our daily routine we can get pigeon-holed. Why? Because our jobs require certain tasks, that may only utilize 20 percent of what we are capable of doing.

Having a frank discussion about past jobs, future potential opportunities and even a person’s hobbies and outside interests is very motivating. People want to matter. When, if ever, have you asked an employee, or have you been asked by a boss about the full range of what they or you bring to the table.

One caution here. Make sure that you don’t communicate that the more we learn about you, the more work we are going to pile on you. Rather it is a matter of utilizing skills and abilities in an efficient and effective way.

The third question looks strongly to the future. “If you could develop or transform (our company, church, family, community group) in any way you wished, what three things would you do to heighten its vitality and overall health?” This is the kind of question you don’t want to spring on someone.

Give it to them and let them think about it for two or three days. Ask them to make a few notes. I can almost guarantee that 80-90 percent of employees have never been asked this type of a question with the requirement and opportunity to respond.

You might do this one-on-one, but a better way is to do it in small groups. Even though you likely are to get many impossible ideas, you will get some totally new use thoughts.

Overall asking appreciative-respectful questions builds trust, morale and can result in productive new resources.

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