Being respected in our workplace is something we all desire, no matter where we sit in the organizational hierarchy. Respect doesn’t come from power or authority — we’ve all known people in positions of authority who aren’t respected.
Respect comes from inspiring others to better, when they know they can count on you, and when they see how much you care. When you have the genuine respect of others, your voice and actions carry a ton of weight, even if you aren’t the boss.
Here are some qualities that will help your team will see you as an honest leader, even if it’s not a title on your business card.
Be a role model for your coworkers
You don’t have to be a manager or the CEO of the company to be a role model. Role models are people who possess the qualities we’d like to have, and who inspire us to be better. They challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones, are constant learners, and surround themselves with people who are smarter.
At Digital-Tutors, we held to the belief that excellence is contagious. Every person at every level of the organization can inspire excellence in those around them, and that pursuit of excellence became our everyday mode of operation.
It’s not that hard, it just takes some common sense, and some intentional actions.
For example, treat people with the same respect you’d want to receive. Don’t belittle coworkers or make jokes at anyone’s expense. Don’t engage in unhealthy office gossip. Express gratitude, and give credit where credit is due. Respond to emails and phone messages promptly. Be humble, but don’t sell yourself short. Be respectful by arriving for work and meetings on time. Make time to form meaningful connections with your coworkers by grabbing a group lunch or happy-hour drinks on occasion. Ask for help or feedback when you feel stuck, and do the same for your teammates.
Remember the golden rule: treat others the same way you’d want them to treat you. When your coworkers see you as dependable, caring and respectful, then your words and actions will carry weight with them.
For people who aren’t in a position of authority, asking questions can be scary, because they don’t want their knowledge or competence called into doubt. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that strong leaders should have all the answers, but that’s simply not true. One of the hallmarks of a good leader, manager or coworker is the ability to ask good questions.
Asking the right questions can show that you are genuinely interested in finding the best solution for the problem at hand. Probing questions help facilitate discussion, which helps gain clarity and understanding, which can lead to an “aha” moment of innovation.
Open yourself up, and don’t be afraid to show curiosity. Your willingness to facilitate an environment of open communication will lead to stronger morale, collaboration and trust among your team. This leads directly into the next topic below.
Don’t just wait for your turn to talk — really listen
Have you ever been in a conversation where you wonder if the other person is listening to anything you say? You wonder if your message is getting across, or if you should just stop talking. Now flip the scenario around — have you ever been in a conversation where you’re waiting for the other person to take a breath, so you can make a counterpoint to something they said earlier?
Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. And contrary to popular belief, human beings are not good at multitasking. That means you can’t possibly give another person your full attention when you’re busy thinking about what you’re going to say next. How well you listen has a major impact on your relationships, both professional and personal.Active listening is a great way to engage with the speaker in a way that reassures them you’ve been listening. Active listening involves paraphrasing or restating the message back to the speaker, in different words, and usually in a shorter form.
If a coworker is explaining a concept, a passive listener might just nod their head absently. Or they wouldn’t acknowledge anything the speaker said, and immediately proceed to take over the conversation. An active listener would actually paraphrase the speaker’s message by saying something like “Let me see if I’m clear on this”, or “When you said ______, what did you mean?”
When engaging in active listening, maintain eye contact and use engaged body language. Use open-ended questions that stimulate discussion, rather than closed-ended questions that require a one-word response from the speaker. Avoid interrupting — remember it’s called active listening for a reason.
More than anything, just be authentic and genuine when giving people your attention. When people know you’re fully listening to them, they’ll be much more willing to listen to you in return.
Consider your body language
In the 1970s, UCLA Prof. Albert Mehrabian released a study claiming that 55% of human communication happens through our body language. While there has been debate over the statistical accuracy of this claim, there’s no denying that we do pick up on other people’s body language. In fact, when a person’s body language doesn’t align with their spoken message, we usually believe that their body language is telling the real story.
So if you’re trying to have a genuine conversation with a coworker, and your body language inadvertently conveys disinterest, apathy or opposition, then you’ll never gain their trust. When addressing people, maintain eye contact, smile and give them your full attention. Leave your arms uncrossed and your hands unclenched. Don’t pull out your phone in the middle of the conversation. Sit straight in your chair, and don’t slouch when standing.
People are good at reading nonverbal cues, but we aren’t always aware of the nonverbal messages we’re sending to others. Being mindful of how you present yourself can be vital to getting ahead at work.