Erica Pinsky



Making a Resolution for a Respectful New Year

If you are like me, the start of a New Year inspires you to make resolutions. Unfortunately, like me, you may find that many of those resolutions soon start to feel more like obligation than inspiration. Somehow, we find ourselves unable to keep our resolutions. And, when we fail, we end up feeling badly. So much for the hope and optimism that accompanies a New Year.

Well, my 2008 resolution is worthwhile and beneficial for me and for everyone I come in contact with. Even better, it is really easy to keep. It doesn’t involve cutting out favorite foods, or finding time to exercise. It’s simple. The only resolution I made for 2008 is to adopt respect as a core value in my life and really live that value.

As many of you know, I am working on a book called, Road to Respect: The Path to Profit. My message is simple. The way to become an Employer of Choice in today’s competitive and diverse job market is to create a Respectful Workplace culture: a values based workplace where respect is a core organizational value reflected in every business practice. 

My book stresses the importance of “Choosing to Walk the Talk.”  This means not just having a mission statement or values that state you will be respectful. It is not about making politically correct statements. It is about walking the talk and modeling respect so that respectful behaviour becomes “the way it is” in your organization. 

Issy Sharpe, founder of the Four Seasons Hotel chain, is a leader that really walks the talk when it comes to demonstrating respectful behaviour. He credits his incredible business success to his decision to make the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated) the cornerstone of his organizational culture. It was his personal commitment and accountability that allowed his vision of a respectful Golden Rule culture to be realized. And did it pay off? Well…

His leadership skills and philosophy of a “culture of mutual respect” has resulted in one of the most successful hotel chains in history, with over 70 hotels worldwide at last count. And it is not just customers that flock to the hotels. An “Employer of Choice,” more than 40,000 people worldwide applied to work at Four Seasons hotels in 2006 alone.

One of the things I love most about writing a book is how much I am learning from it. I am fortunate to have a talented and supportive assistant doing a first edit. We met when our kids were in day care so, like me, she has raised multi-tasking to an art form. She recently shared a story with me. She had bought some new clothes for one of her daughters. Unfortunately, when she brought them home, her daughter took one look and said, “no way.” She refused to even try them on. 

As I also have a daughter, I could relate to this situation. Finding time to shop is hard enough. When your child wants to make decisions about what she wears, and won’t even try clothes you suggest, it can be enough to make your blood boil. My assistant’s blood was rapidly heating up as she insisted that her daughter at least try the new clothes. 

Then, she said, it hit her. As she heard herself insisting her daughter try on the clothes, she thought about the chapter she had been editing that morning on power and respect. She realized that she was using her power as the Mom in a way that was not respectful of her daughter. She realized that she could force her daughter to try on the clothes and could even make her wear them. But how would that be beneficial to either of them? At that moment, she switched gears. She stopped insisting that her daughter try on the clothes, apologized, and asked what it was about the clothes that she didn’t like. Even though the clothes had to go back, the outcome in terms of my assistant’s relationship with her daughter was positive. She told me that she was starting to appreciate the ‘walk the talk of respect’ message.

I got off the phone feeling elated and inspired to get back to writing. If everyone who reads my book reacts that way, my vision of respectful and profitable workplaces might actually be realized! If only everyone would adopt respect as a core value in their lives and really live that value, I thought, how great would that be.

Of course, given that I was writing a book on the subject, I was quite confident that I was already “walking the talk.” I was sure I was living the value. I consciously think about modeling the behaviour in all my work. Recently, however, I realized that in some cases, I was “talking” more than I was “walking.” 

Over the holiday break I read, The Power of Tact, by Peter Legge. His message is that our day to day experiences will improve if we treat every person we meet with respect and consideration. I read Peter’s stories about choosing to be courteous and respectful - even when inconvenienced and stressed by missed flights, lost luggage, or some other problem caused by “others.”  I started thinking. I thought about the last time I had missed a connection due to an airline error and how I had spoken to the customer service agents. I thought about my ongoing problems with a courier company and my last conversation with their rep. I thought about how many times my daughter has asked me not to yell at her. And how many times I replied, “I’m not yelling.”  Oh sure, I talk about respect, but was I really living it? I concluded that I was not. I had not truly embraced respect as a core personal value. I was not demonstrating that value in every aspect of my life.

As I thought about these situations I came up with lots of “yes buts” to justify my behaviour - justifications that many of us use to validate our actions. I realized that if I truly want to inspire others to adopt respect as a core value, there was no longer any room for those “yes buts” in my life. 

So I only made one resolution in 2008: to adopt respect as a core personal value and really live that value in every aspect of my life. It is going pretty well so far. I am trying to live both the Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated, and the Platinum Rule – treat others as they would like to be treated. 

The Golden Rule implies self-respect. It requires that we think about how we ourselves would like to be treated. One thing I have realized is that somewhere along the way, caught up in the business of my own life, I stopped asking myself that question. I now see that the best way I can respect myself is to direct my inner voice to say “I choose to” rather than “I have to.” 

The Platinum Rule implies respect based upon appreciation of who “others” are. We must suspend judgment, assumptions and preconceptions and become truly curious and empathetic towards those we interact with. While I am still having those ongoing and infuriating problems with the Courier company, I am trying to remember that the voice on the phone is attached to a human being. No matter how unhappy I am about their service, that person does not deserve to be dumped on by me.

In his book, The Power of Tact, Peter Legge asks “What if we started taking tiny steps to treat each other with more respect, to offer our trust in small ways and use tact as our guiding principle in our interactions with others…what effect do you think that would have on the world that we live in?”

I can tell you from personal experience that so far my resolution is having a positive effect on my world. While I firmly believe that leaders must model respectful behaviour in the workplace in order to build a respectful workplace culture, I also know that each of us can change our own reality. We can stop waiting for someone else to do whatever and just make the choice to do it ourselves. Imagine you decided to adopt respect as core personal value and to model that behaviour both at work and in your personal life. What effect would that have on your world? 

So, what do you think? Are you up for making one more resolution for 2008? Make the decision to adopt respect as a core personal value in your life. Model respectful behaviour. Live the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule. Be the leader of your life and choose to walk the walk of respect.

Pinsky’s writing style makes this book an easy read for managers, decision-makers, human resource professionals and business owners and anyone else interested in building a respectful workplace. She provides tangible advice interwoven with the stories of real organizations who demonstrate on a daily basis the value of promoting a respectful workplace. Pinsky ensures that readers can glean from the book information they need to take action. A respectful  workplace culture is a road “paved” over time with trust and support; and Pinsky’s book provides the tools you need to arrive at your destination.

Catherine M. Mattice
President, Civility Partners, LLC & SME on Workplace Bullying