Month: September 2010

Respect 2.0

As we ponder (and recirculate) the various 2.0 notions that are insinuating themselves into the business world, I’d like to reflect for a moment on the critical underpinning of all 2.0 social and business phenomena.

Leaders are now able (and required) to respect their teams,. Companies are able (and required) to respect their customers and prospects more fully, and peers and partners must do the same. But respect is not merely a matter of attitude but one of connoisseurship.

What I mean by that is this – a little education on how to listen for and appreciate people helps a lot – much as a course in wine tasting helps you identify different flavors and characteristics of wine to be alert and aware of. By respect – i do not mean “fear” or obedience – as is often implied. Respect in this context means the expectation that your contribution is valuable, that your perspective is important to consider, and that I can not, ever, assume that my thinking or my contributions are superior to yours simply because you are younger, subordinate on the hierarchy, less well known than I, etc.

This does not mean that you should not be discerning – but that that your discernment should be based on your experience with an individual, not based on roles or labels.

Jeffrey Levy is an excellent connoisseur of expertise. He has a little catch phrase that really hit home with me. “An Expert” he says, “is anyone who knows one thing that you do not.” Have you ever met anyone who did not know something that you don’t? Even one thing? A true expert expert will be able to find out what that one thing is, and truly value it.

Michael Edson is another very fine connoisseur. He has a delightful – and extremely effective – knack for divining what a person can and should contribute, and describing that to others in a way that makes you eager to meet and learn from that person yourself.

The peculiarly and surprisingly effective speaker training I did with SecondCity last year, was in effect teaching us how to tune ourselves to highlight and demonstrate respect for our audiences (with a bit of good performance techniques thrown in).

There’s a reason I’ve gone down this path. This authenticity, trust, listening, collaboration, etc, that we’re all talking about (endlessly it sometimes seems), can only come to fruition as we make respect the basis of every interaction. This may seem obvious – but this is actually counter to our traditional notions of most relationships. There is an implicit expectation of inequality in most of our relationships, and this impairs our ability to respect and to listen. Most relationships are assumed to be one of superior and subordinate. The truly peer relationship – that of equals ¬†– is the exception, not the rule in our current society. These relationships were documented by Confucius, but no doubt existed prior to that.

This makes people who respect others first and foremost stand out. They make outstanding leaders, because they are not patronizing. They make outstanding collaborators because the inevitably bring out the best in their co-conspirators. They are the future, and I look forward to them being more evenly distributed.

Respectfully submitted.