Post date: February 13, 2018 by Grace Bourke

Working with an improvement team that displayed deep cultural commitment to respect got me curious about “respect.” What is a culture of respect? I saw the usual habits of respect: leave titles at the door, no interrupting, no blaming. This team had something more. Here are a few examples:

  • When a colleague shared how she’d made a mistake, the team asked her to walk through the steps of what happened. When she blamed herself, they redirected the conversation to the process by asking questions about the process steps. When she finished, they thanked her and explained that because she had shared her experience, they now understood what they could do to fix the process and prevent the error from happening again.
  • Throughout the week, the team actively sought each other’s input. Since the home team was still caring for patients and doing their regular work, the team hung flip charts and wrote down questions for home team members. When the team member was available, they were able to collaborate quickly so that the home team member could return to work. The home team was thrilled to be included.
  • In another situation, the workshop improvements significantly changed a team member’s work. Even though she had been able to provide input during the week, the team still wanted to meet with her to walk through the changes, answer her questions, and collaborate to ensure she was comfortable and capable with the new process. The manager had the same thought and had already adjusted the schedule for the afternoon – enabling this person to be trained immediately.

In addition to the usual signs of respect: communication, collaboration, inclusion, kindness and courtesy, I think I saw “appreciation.” They appreciated each other’s accomplishments and the diversity of perspectives and experiences that enable each person to bring a unique contribution. They valued each other and expressed it through appreciation. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t provide feedback – they provided corrective feedback (I know, I received it). The genuine appreciation was so frequent that corrective feedback felt respectful. If we are valued even through the rough patches, we have the courage and fortitude to learn from our mistakes. We don’t feel devalued, and the team avoids the associated negative impacts.

If being appreciated supports being valued and feeling respected, how can we practice it more? Think back through your career. Have you experienced appreciation? Have you expressed appreciation? What was the impact? A Harvard Business Review article suggests that we can build a pattern of appreciation by recognizing people’s value even when they fall short, by appreciating ourselves, and by making the effort to point-out what people are doing right.

From what I saw, adding appreciation to communication and collaboration builds respect, which is a cultural enabler for delivering great service, developing people, and continuously improving. Let’s give it a try! Appreciate one thing about someone today. Even if he/she did something wrong – find something they did right, too. Let them know that they are valued and respected.