Effective Work Teams Place a Strong Emphasis on Dignity & Respect
Maybe this sounds basic at first glance. So let's break it down. Work teams / place a / strong emphasis on/ dignity / and respect.
Not individuals, but teams. Not hope it happens, but place it intentionally. Not mild interest. but strong emphasis. On both (not either/or) dignity and respect. Here's why this matters.
All too often, teams get divided or polarized. They become mired in finger-pointing or turf wars. Factions work to undermine each other. Trust deteriorates. Nothing gets done.
This happens because it's difficult to work with other people, especially when their work has a direct impact on your work. All sorts of self-interests get in the way of focusing more fully on the good of the team.
Most team breakdowns can be traced to a real or perceived lack of respect or to some indignity. Consider these examples:
- One team member takes great pains to write out detailed instructions on the processes and procedures for shared work. Another team member says she doesn't have time to read the instructions and proceeds in her own fashion, wreaking havoc on systems that affect others.
- Two team members prefer to process new ideas before offering input. But the rest of the group moves quickly and doesn't wait for these two to formulate their thoughts and express them. Instead they move from idea to decision very quickly.
- Long-term team members feel protective of workplace culture and legacy systems. They scoff at innovations suggested by newer team members. They often digress into storytelling about the "good ole days" and have a lot of inside jokes the newer team members aren't privy to.
The three examples share one thing in common. Both sides of each issue feel slighted and disrespected. The indignity depends on which way you look at the situation.
When work teams place a strong emphasis on dignity, people feel important, worthy and honored
Team members who feel important and worthy behave differently than those who feel marginalized or unimportant.
Simple acts convey honor and dignify people. Listening with genuine interest, seeking input and seeking to understand it, and considering ideas offered are among some of the most powerful and basic ways to dignify others.
Dignifying others helps them to feel important and valued. Feeling this way at work leads people to be more engaged. Engaged employees apply additional discretionary effort to the work they do.
This isn't up to the team leader alone. Every member of the team can (and should) do this for every other member of the team.
But it takes deliberate focus to overcome individual impulses for expedience or self-interests. With practice, anyone can develop an other-orientation. When teams commit to doing this with and for each other, trust and effectiveness are the natural outcomes.
When work teams place a strong emphasis on respect, people feel esteemed and appreciate the consideration
Team members who share mutual respect are reciprocating respect to each other. In other words, it starts somewhere. One team member shows respect to another. The person who feels respected appreciates that consideration and esteem, so they return that respect.
Respect is contagious. A respectful person gets respect. Team members who make a habit of respecting each other find it easier to get shared work done.
Like dignity, respect won't always come automatically. We don't easily accept challenges to our way of thinking. It's much easier to harshly judge others who approach things differently. It takes intentional effort to show esteem others for their ideas even if you don't agree with them.
Teams can't function well if team members are inconsiderate in the way they interact or in the way they hand off work. That's why the whole team must place a strong emphasis on deliberately working on respect.
To develop a shared commitment to dignity and respect, teams often find it's useful to start by understanding and appreciating the differences and unique attributes of each team member. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one tool that helps bring teams together in this way. In the hands of a certified practitioner and gifted facilitator, it can heal past misunderstandings and restore feelings of dignity and respect to everyone on the team. With this foundation, teams operate on a whole new level.