How Can We Respect Every Individual?

Written by Gwen Engelen, Solving Efeso
Published October 20, 2014

As a Shingo Certified Facilitator, among my clients I promote the 10 Shingo Guiding Principles that inform ideal behaviour to realise enterprise excellence. One of the 10 principles is “Respect Every Individual.” But why is it necessary to respect every individual? And what kind of behaviour do we have to show so that people truly feel respected? And finally, how can we drive this behaviour so all leaders, managers and associates actually show respect, each and every day?

Why is it necessary that we respect every individual? The answer to that can be found using an easy exercise I have learned form the Shingo Institute: you only have to ask yourself, what happens when you don’t? And what happens when you do?

When you don’t “respect every individual,” you run the risk of creating an organisation of rudeness, impeding people’s ability to perform complex tasks requiring creativity, flexibility and memory recall.

After exposure to rudeness, people think hard about the incident, and those thought processes take cognitive resources structurally away from other tasks (source: Christine Porath, associate professor, Georgetown University and Christine Pearson, professor, Thunderbird School of Management).

On the other hand, if people feel respected, they not only engage with their hands but also with their hearts and minds. Respect for every individual is manifested in valuing each individual as a person and nourishing their potential.

It would therefore make sense to create organisations that invest in everyone’s development and encourage people to realize their full potential – organizations where dignity is fostered, the contributions of every employee are honoured, and where a physically and emotionally safe workplace is ensured (source: Shingo Institute, 2014 Utah State University).

So, then, what kind of behaviour do we have to show so that people feel truly respected? Most employees I meet tell me they feel respected when their managers first ask questions when there is an issue – their managers listen to them instead of giving the right answers without listening at all. Also, the managers I engage with explain that they feel respected by their leaders when they are trusted and empowered to think and to solve problems themselves. It is ultimately all about behaviour and communication: asking the right questions, saying the right things and doing the right things the right way at the right time.

In most organisations I have worked with I have experienced that ideal behaviour will not come naturally, regardless of the fact that coaching structures, reward and recognition systems, and safety tools and programmes have been implemented. They need more than that, to ensure that people are willing and able to show ideal behaviour according to the 10 Shingo Guiding Principles.

In my experience the organisations that became successful in sustained ideal behaviour implemented a behaviour-management system to seal a culture where all employees and managers are willing and able to perform according to the ideal behaviours. This means building an environment that provokes ideal behaviours, that measures ideal behaviours and that gives help when there are identified deviations between the ideal and the observed behaviour. Following this approach ensures that all employees not only know the meaning of “Respect Every Individual,” but they understand it and are supported by well-designed structures, tools and capable managers and leaders. In this way, they are able to actually show respect for each other in everything they do, each and every day.

Gwen Engelen, Solving Efeso 

Gwen Engelen is vice president at Solving Efeso, an educational business technologist and Shingo Institute Certified Facilitator. From 2009 she contributed to the development of the Performance Behavior methodology: a performance improvement methodology launched by Neil Webers, which focuses on behaviour and is based on lean principles.