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Want Respect? Show Respect



A CEO who wanted to show employees appreciation for their “stick-to-it” attitudes, dependability, and loyalty during tough economic times–but didn’t know how—distributed a survey. The result was an overwhelming request from the employees for an on-site barbeque lunch.

The CEO has a manager coordinate the event. This manager understands the employees well and knows they will deeply appreciate this gesture if the CEO participates in the event. The manager suggests the CEO stand behind the grill, flipping burgers and hotdogs.

Near lunchtime on the day of the barbeque, the manager recommends the CEO get the grill area ready, as the manager alerts the rest of the executive team to start gathering their people. When the manager returns to the grill area, the coals are red-hot, and the CEO is nowhere to be found.

The manager chooses to jump in at the grill and starts cooking, much to the delight of the hungry employees.

After 30 minutes, employees are still waiting for the CEO to drop by and say a few words. The manager has tried to make the CEO look good by pinch-hitting at the grill, and it’s become virtually impossible to overcome the lack of appreciation and respect the CEO has shown people who’ve been busting their butts to weather the economic storm and make the company a success.

When the CEO makes an appearance just before the lunch hour has ended, he mingles a bit, heads straight for the food, grabs a plate and then returns to his office, barely saying a word.

What could be more important than connecting with the people who saved the CEO’s profitability?

When such a leader walks around taking employees for granted, thinking, “Let them try and get a job somewhere else!,” the leader risks these valuable assets commitment and loyalty for the future. Getting another job today might be tough, but what about tomorrow when the economy may shift and employment opportunities are better?

If you act like this leader, your behavior is unacceptable, inappropriate, rude and disrespectful. In a tough economy, you may be correct; employees can’t get jobs elsewhere easily. However, don’t think for a moment this incident won’t be among their top reasons to leave the company.

It’s time for leaders to get their collective heads out of the sand and start walking the talk about “team,” “acknowledgment,” and “appreciation.”

My clients sometimes ask, “Why don’t employees have the same stake in the game?” If you as a CEO or company leader wonder that as well, consider these questions:

  • Would working the grill have been that difficult?
  • How hard could it be to spend one hour connecting with people looking for some kind of acknowledgment from the boss?
  • Worse yet, because the CEO didn’t show till the end and then not stay, their direct reports followed in-step. What the leader does gives license for direct reports to do the same. Is that the message you want to send?

The above example makes it easy to understand why employees don’t always give their all. When creating an “us versus them” situation, it is difficult to set a standard for continued success. Moving forward, chances are the employees will be challenged to respond to the CEO’s requests—not only because the CEO disrespected them, but because the CEO allowed the entire executive team to do the same.

It’s simple: happy employees produce results and the CEO/President/Company Leader is the direct beneficiary in terms of productivity and profitability. Give your company a fighting chance. Show some corporate love and acknowledge your people. They are starving for leadership, and if you don’t provide it, they will follow someone who will. Your competitors will be drooling, and it won’t be over the hotdogs and hamburgers!

The choice is yours!

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