In my new book, Real People, Real Change: Stories of a Change Warrior in the Business World, I share a story about a school in which I taught.
The middle school was in the middle of the city, and the students came from the lower socio-economic areas. I taught the “severely emotionally disturbed” class, which meant mostly males who got into a lot of fights.
When I first came to teach them, I followed a woman who had given these seventh and eighth graders worksheets designed for third graders. Once completed they were allowed to play games such as “Life” and “Monopoly,” which led to more fighting.
I believe that people change their behaviors when someone else believes in them. Providing 14 year-olds with worksheets that an eight year-old could complete doesn’t reflect anything except a lazy teacher. I have to tell you that after a couple of days observing the incumbent teacher I wanted to start a fight just to entertain myself.
Sometimes you manage people without showing respect for their skills and desires. I can’t tell you the number of leaders who have told me that something needs to be “dumbed-down” so their people can understand it, or that they don’t think the employees in cubicles really care about the goals of a company.
I think people deserve more respect than that. Most people want to know about their company and how they are contributing to the goals. They don’t need simplified emails from leaders who are too disconnected to walk out of their offices and communicate.
Trust is built when people provide each other with mutual respect. Fights begin when a person tries to conquer another by disrespecting their intelligence and desires.
Great leaders show respect and build trust by doing what they ask others to do. I will close with a story shared in my book:
“I remember talking to a group of young Marines who had just completed boot camp. They were on a plane flying home for a week, and their enthusiasm was incredible. The Marine next to me talked about his drill sergeant who made them dig a ditch in the rain on their last night. Then they had to sleep in the ditch.
“Wow,” I said. “You must have really hated him for making you do that.
“Oh, no ma’am,” the Marine replied. “He dug that ditch and slept in it with us. He’s our leader.”
Change warriors know they must prove their willingness to do the tough work before people will follow them.
Do you know a leader that leads with respect and builds trust? Tell me about him or her – I’d love to know how they’ve impacted your life.
If you’re interested in more stories about being a change leader, here is a link to the book: