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  • Writer's pictureRobin Rosenberg

Leading with Respect: What “Walking the Walk” Looks Like

As a leader, your actions carry weight. People watch and listen to you. If you don’t behave respectfully toward others, then any guidelines created by you, your organization, and/or your working group will ultimately matter very little. Your working group will see you’re only talking about why respectful behavior is important to you, and assume the guidelines are merely talk as well.

They need to see you “walk the walk” in order to know that you mean what you say. As you behave with respect, they are more likely to model your behavior. It will also help them be motivated to put in the effort to be respectful to colleagues, customers, and partners consistently.

Leaders can “walk the walk” through actions large and small:

  • Frame and co-create civility and inclusion guidelines with employees (thereby creating new social norms),

  • Support and help people follow the guidelines; some people may need coaching,

  • Solicit and receive feedback well: Actively listen and make changes based on the feedback, or have a conversation about why not,

  • Give feedback respectfully: Focus on specific behaviors that are valued or that could be improved, rather than vague style or character issues,

  • Identify and address behaviors based in bias in yourself and in others,

  • Initiate respectful and inclusive conversations with employees,

  • Respect other people’s time: Start and end meetings on time, provide concise and clear communications,

  • Ask “what am I missing? What are we missing?” This acknowledges blind spots and solicits different viewpoints or information. It counters confirmation bias—the tendency to notice and remember information that confirms one’s own perspective,

  • Recognize people’s efforts (since outcomes aren’t necessarily under their control),

  • Be generous in giving credit.

Needless to say, implementing these actions will take time and effort until they become a habit, and are then relatively automatic.


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