Earn Respect, Receive Respect

Emblazoned on the wall of one of the training rooms at the local county sheriff’s office where I live are the words,

Respect is earned, not demanded.”

I cannot agree with this statement more, yet across my professional life, and still to this day, I meet people who demand respect not on the basis of their actions but on the basis of their title or position within their respective professional organization. Sadly, the very act of demanding respect causes them to not only fail to earn respect, but to lose it as well.

I envision respect as a line graph.  The x axis represents time. The y axis represents the level of respect, with the higher the reach upward on the y axis representing greater respect, and the lower the reach representing a loss of or lower respect.

All human beings are initially deserving of respect. In my mental graph, when I first meet someone, I envision that we are at the intersection of Respect Sidebarthe beginning of the timeline and the baseline for respect. I have respect for them as a human being, but I have yet to experience enough interaction and observation to add to or detract from that baseline respect. As we move along the x axis of time, my perceptions will change and the respect line will fluctuate based on my observations and interpretations of the persons actions.

So what can us as employers, employees, customers, family members, friends, and even strangers do to keep our perceived respect above the baseline? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Show respect. The fastest way to increase your own respect is to show respect.  Every human being wants to know that they have value and that others recognize it. Be respectful of others and they’ll respect you.
  2. Communicate cordially. Do you agree with every thought and opinion that the people you encounter in your life have? Of course not! We are all unique individuals and that is actually what makes our world such a rich and vibrant place to live. We can always remain cordial in our dealing with each other however, even when we don’t necessarily agree. If you have “hot topics” that you feel are better left untouched, then do so, and respect that others may also have their areas they would rather not talk about.
  3. Feel, don’t “see.” Appreciate the warmth, the kindness, the intelligence, the generosity, and the “heart” of those you interact with. If you do that, you will never face issues related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and so much more. If you take the time to feel, you will see – the real person, the human.
  4. There is no license to superiority. Being the CEO of a company doesn’t make you better than or give you a license to deserve more respect than that of the lowest paid employee in your company.  Likewise, don’t immediately assume that the President or CEO of your company is a cold, untouchable autocrat when you have never taken the time to meet them or speak with them.  I do hold great respect for people who have worked hard and been very successful, but I also hold them to a higher standard that requires them to more diligently work to not jeopardize that respect.  I equally respect the laborer who reports for work day-in and day-out so that he can provide for his family and offer them perhaps a more stable life than he felt he had.
  5. Show understanding. Sometimes things are just out of people’s hands. When I was in college I worked for a hotel that insisted that its employees abide by the motto, “Yes I Can.”  The answer to any question asked by a guest was, “Yes I Can.”  But here was the reality:  the honest answer to some questions was, “I’m sorry, but No I Can’t.”  We all understand that we simply have some situations in our lives that are out of our hands. Understand that applies to everyone. Don’t make unreasonable demands upon people and then become angry when they cannot possible fulfill what it is you want. You will lose status in their eyes.
  6. Live by the Golden Rule. If that sounds overly simple, it’s because some of the best advice is overly simple.  The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. You can’t really go wrong with that mindset.

Respect is one of the greatest things we can earn. It is also one of the highest compliments we can give.  Like a college GPA, if you have a high respect quotient, it takes a bit more effort to bring it down quickly, whereas if you start off with a low respect quotient, it is a much more difficult climb out of the hole. It can be done, but it’s a lot more work.

The bottom line is this: regardless of our status in life, we earn the respect we receive through the actions we show others, the good deeds we perform, and the overall way in which we conduct ourselves. It cannot be demanded. Those demands will fall on deaf ears.

All the best to you.

Is Mentoring a Lost Art?

The first steam locomotive

The first steam locomotive

The advent of the steam engine and the locomotive in the mid-1800’s ushered in a new era in America and throughout the world. That era was the industrial revolution.

Prior to the industrial revolution the world had largely been agrarian or small family-owned shops that provided necessary goods. Villages were largely self-sufficient, and unless one was involved in trade, there was little reason to travel from town to town. Small villages dotted the landscapes and around those small villages were farms where the local farmers grew their food. The farmers sold their wares at local markets and passed their skills on to their sons, and so on and so forth.

cobbler apprentice

A cobbler’s apprentice

In the village you would most likely find a blacksmith, trained by his father, and training his own son.  The same was true of the cooper, the silversmith, the butcher, the lawyer, and many others. Many tradesmen and farmers took on apprentices; young men who came to learn the craft, to learn a skill.  These farmers and tradesmen were what today we might refer to as mentors – skilled business people who pass on knowledge, who educate, who guide, provide correction when needed, praise when justified, and lift spirits when they sag.

industrial revolution

The mass production factory of the Industrial Revolution.

This had been the way for centuries. But the industrial revolution introduced new concepts in machinery, in production, and the inventions and discoveries of the industrial revolution gained an incredible, unstoppable momentum that fed the mind, led to more invention, more production, and faster ways to turn out even greater quantities of product. It fed a nation, and the world. Suddenly, the skills and education needed to learn a trade was no longer learned at the side of a master who already knew the craft. It was learned in colleges, universities, and trade schools. Education became as industrialized as our factories.

That momentum is still in motion today. It has morphed into the digital revolution, but the cogs of the great industrial and technological machine that is our society just keep spinning faster and faster.  Telephones, cell phones, instant messaging, social networking, computer aided design and manufacturing.  These are all incredible forces that allow us to do more in less time and to discover new ways of creating and doing, but have we also lost something in the process?

Apprenticeship is a rare thing these days. We hear talk of mentors, but what really is a mentor? I believe that a mentor is an experienced employee or manager who does all those things that a tradesman did with his apprentice: watch, guide, correct, support, help, and teach. But in a society that goes faster and faster and demands more, how can one mentor? They have their own needs to attend to. And what are we losing in the process?

Years ago, I took a job as a new account executive in the sales department of a company. I knew that I had people skills and the ability to talk to people. I was also keenly aware of my shortcomings: lack of industry knowledge, anxiety at cold-calling on prospects, and the self-confidence in myself and my product to “seal the deal.”

Within this company was a sales manager that I truly respected. He exuded the confidence I liked, but was in no way “smarmy,” or “hard-sell.”  I appreciated his skill. I appreciated his consultative approach to making a sale. He was someone I wanted to learn from and emulate. I decided that I needed a mentor and this was the man to do just that. I went to the local bookstore and purchased a book on mentoring. I sat down with the sales manager, gave him the book, told him the respect I had for his skills and that I wanted him to guide me, help me – mentor me.  He agreed. It ended there. I never received the guidance I asked for, the assistance I needed. I left the company shortly thereafter, feeling as if I had failed.

I train many, many people in my current position.  What I have learned is that we all learn at different paces and individuals gather and retain certain pieces of knowledge faster than others.  Within our high speed society, however, I fear that we want to have a “cookie-cutter” production line of people and we simply discard those who don’t move at an equivalent pace as others.

How many young people fresh out of school have great and deep untouched talent that we never let completely rise to the surface because we decide too early on “that they just aren’t right for the job.” We need to really mentor these new employees. They need to be treated as apprentices. stressed-manThey don’t know, and won’t know it all when they walk through the door, and we can’t use that rare Phenom we get as the benchmark. These young employees need to be guided and provided a safe and accommodating environment to learn, to make mistakes and not fear it marks the end.

Mentoring is alive, I just don’t think its well. We need to heal it. We need to embrace it. Be there to answer questions, to add support, to tell war stories. Remember what it was like when you learned. Don’t say, “Well that was how I had to learn it too.”  If you know it was the wrong way, why perpetuate it? Fix it. BE A MENTOR. Let’s get it back to being alive AND well.  I suspect we may all get something unexpected back in return – a deep respect that is earned.

Find Peace & Joy Within

At some point in all of our lives we deal with depression. Now I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I am just a guy. A guy more than half way through his life who believes this from his own experiences. I have been a child, a teen, a single young adult, college student, husband, father, leader, minion, employee, and the list goes on and on. I have never been homeless, hungry (and I mean truly hungry – not having eaten and not knowing where my next meal was coming from), suicidal, addicted, unloved, imprisoned, and this list also goes on and on. So, like all, I can only speak from my experiences and not for everyone.

Monsters don’t sleep under your bed; monsters sleep inside your head.” -author unknown

On a macro scale, I believe human beings deal with two types of very separate yet intertwined forms of depression. The first is that deep-seated, unrelenting, crushing depression that locks people in their beds, their homes, their minds, and their own self-misery. I am going to refer to this as chronic depression. The second is what I call situational or acute depression. This depression is also painful, and sometimes feels without end, but is created by the influence of external forces on us.

This post is only going to touch briefly on the first type of depression, namely for two reasons; the first as I stated at the onset is that I am not in the mental health field and am in no way qualified to provide therapeutic assessment or advice. The second is that I have never suffered chronic depression myself and have no personal experiences to base any advice on.Depression1

For those who suffer from chronic depression, you have my deepest sympathy and regrets that I am not able to help you more. To feel powerless to help another is, in my opinion, an awful circumstance, but if you suffer chronic depression and get anything from my self-admittedly ignorant article, then I will find some joy in that. All the advice I can offer you is to know that people exist in your life who love you, who would do whatever is within their power to help you and to provide you support. I hope that you can find it within yourselves to seek the professional help that can guide you to getting whatever it takes to fight to move ahead and reach the place where you can find your peace and joy within.

Situational depression is something that most people are much more familiar with. This acute depression can happen to anyone and can be brought on by difficult or stressful events in our lives. Perhaps you feel trapped in a dead-end job, you recently lost a loved one, relocated, had a a child go away to college; many things can trigger one to feel this kind of depression. Finding a way to fight through this, however, is right there, within yourself.

Because situational depression can be tied back to specific “environmental” causes, the key to finding peace and joy within is to redirect our mindset. This is not going to necessarily erase the negative influence causing the depression, but it can act as a “pain-killer,” if you will, taking our mind off the pain, even if in the short term. So how do you do this?

What do you enjoy? What provides you satisfaction? Are you a reader? Find a great book and lose yourself in it. Sports fan? With cable and satellite television there is no lack of things to watch. Perhaps you might even start playing a sport that you previously used to only enjoy watching. Hobbies are a great long term help. Maybe you’re a woodworker or a gardener, or like me, you like to senselessly ramble on a blog. Who cares? If you enjoy it and it can occupy your mind, get to it!

As an Organizational Communication major in college, we learned a theory called the “Spiral of Silence.” For the sake of this article I’m going to “massage” this theory to work here, but essentially the “Spiral of Silence” states that if you remain silent and fail to address wants and needs, you will slowly spiral deeper down into a whirlpool and climbing out can become harder and harder. This is why the occupied mind will help you find that peace and joy within.

What do you feel when you see this picture? Is is peace and harmony, or isolation and loneliness?

What do you feel when you see this picture? Is is peace and harmony, or isolation and loneliness?

I touched on two types of depression: the chronic, or long-term depression, and the acute, or situational depression. I think most people agree that given their choice, situational depression is better to deal with, as relief can be found when the negative experience is remedied. A problem with situational depression, however, is that if you allow yourself to be pulled deeper and deeper into the spiral, it can eventually go from being acute depression to chronic depression. There is an old saying, “the idle mind is the devils playground.” The idle mind is the unoccupied mind. There lies no peace and joy in the mind that swirls, spins, and folds onto itself over and over again.

“I ride by night, and I travel in fear, that in this darkness, I will disappear.”  -Bruce Springsteen, Stolen Car

Consider an episode of situational depression as an opportunity for self-discovery. Look inside yourself for that new hobby or renew an old one. As I said early on, I am not a therapist, but I have experienced situational depression. My youngest child recently left for college. My wife and I are “empty nesters.” The house is very quiet and at night feels very empty. As a parent you worry that your kids are doing alright, are happy, and are safe. These are things that created a “situation” that has lead to my own depression. Yet despite the sense of loss I feel for my kids being gone, I am enjoying new found time to spend exclusively with my wife. If we want to ride our bikes or go for a walk we can. If we want to just sit around and watch TV, that’s OK too. That is the redirection. “Every cloud has a silver lining.”hobbies

Look within. It lies with each and every one of us exclusively. No one can “undepress” us. We have to do that ourselves. It can be hard. It can be accomplished. I close with this suggestion: stand up, take a deep breath, look out the window at the sky, the trees, the grass, or children playing, smile, and say to yourself, “it’s a great day.” Then go live it.