One of the most important parts of the 3COze High Performing Team process is the time we spend helping team members understand their styles and needs—and how they impact team dynamics.  We use the Birkman Method® as our tool in this process.  I’m such a huge fan of the Birkman® because I’ve seen the breakthroughs it creates. This is the first in a series where I’ll help you look in the mirror using some of the insights that come through the Birkman®.  Don’t worry, even if you haven’t taken the tool, you can get the idea (and the benefit).

What does respect mean to me?

Respect means different things to different people. Even THAT is hard for many people to swallow.

I didn’t really understand it myself until a particular interaction with a direct report, early in my career.  Our short and business-focused interactions were making me feel like she didn’t like me. Our interactions were strange to me (I’m a pretty informal chatty extrovert and most of my team would shoot the breeze with me at the start of a meeting).

It was bothering me, so I finally made a comment to let her know I was concerned about our relationship.  She was embarrassed and quick to point out that her curt interactions were intended to show respect for me as her boss—she didn’t want to waste my time. Her respect was making me feel disrespected. Argh.

Once I started using the Birkman Method®, I could see it right there on the normal curve. People run the gamut from direct, issue-focused, and “nothing-but-the-facts-ma’am” to indirect, person-focused, and diplomatic with everything in between. What’s even more complicated is that often people treat you one way and prefer you to treat them a different way. On average, people tend to be more direct with you while expecting you to be more sensitive and put issues in a more personal context for them.

How do you show respect?

Birkman Esteem needs table

Think about how you interact? Are you usually more direct?  I’m very direct. I really notice this when I’m replying to an email.  I almost always hit reply and dive straight into the content of the message.  No salutation, no context, nada.  I’ve learned to check my emails and often go back to include the name and a general line of introduction like “Thanks so much for your message…”

If you’re more indirect, you might find you spend a couple of minutes in small talk before actually talking about the issue you came to discuss.  You also probably choose your words carefully and take care to balance the issue with the needs of the person you’re talking to. You might find your internal voice has to remind you to “get to the point.”

Neither is right or wrong. It’s just good to know which you are.  It’s good to know because your teammates (or your boss) might need something different than your usual behavior.

How do you expect respect to be shown to you?

Take a look at the expectations part of the table.  Which side is more like you?  Do you need to be shown respect by people getting straight to the point or by people being more deferential to you? Again, neither is right or wrong.

Are any light bulbs going on for you?  Can you think of a relationship on your team where differences along this dimension are causing friction? How can you modify your behavior with your teammates to better meet their needs? For your own benefit, is there someone whose once annoying behavior you can reframe by seeing how they were just showing respect differently than you?

It’s really important to look in the mirror sometimes and to see who you are and how you show up on your team.  This is just one dimension that you need to understand about yourself, I’ll share more throughout the series.

For more information on the Birkman Method® check out their website here.

Other Posts in the Series


Further Reading

Your teammate is not weird: Simple rules about respect

Why You Should Stop Pushing Back

Exercise: If we Really Meant it

Video: I’m DONE With Nice People. Let’s Do This Instead