Respect, Power & Knowledge

In watching the debate, if it can be called that, last night, 3 things hit me – Respect (or lack thereof), Power (or illusion of) and Knowledge (or lack thereof).

Respect & Civility:  Throughout the presidential, vice presidential and even the Ohio senate race debates, the candidates have shown little to no respect for each other, for the moderator and for the audience.  They talk over each other, ignore time limits, and answer the question they wish had been asked instead of the one that was asked.  Where has common decent civility gone? The abject rudeness and disregard for another’s opinion and time is horrendous.  If we want this behavior to change, it has to change with us first.  So…

What are we like in our own organization? How do we really treat each other, not how do we think we treat each other?  At your next conversation or meeting, observe your behavior and those with whom you interacting.  Try asking yourself:

  • Am I really listening to what the others have to say or am I preparing my response as they talk (the ‘pre-emptive’ strike)?
  • Did I show up on time (e.g., a few minutes early) and what does that say about how I view the others’ time, hence worthiness and importance?
  • What tone of voice am I using? Do I undermine what I say by how I say it?
  • If my kids behaved like me, what would I do?

Power:  Obama and Romney talk about what they are going to do, without many specifics, as if it were all in their control.  They are going to reduce the deficit, change the budget, cut taxes, increase taxes, send aid, change trade treaties, etc. etc.  Last night, my 15 & 12 year old children asked me how the candidates can say all that when they don’t have the power to do it – when it’s really congress’s power to set the budget, legislate, ratify treaties etc.   While the president can influence these decisions, in essence, he is  ‘powerless’ given the constitution (which demonstrates the power of influence).   This is why our votes for the House and Senate are so critical.  Many of us have confused the roles and responsibilities of the executive, legislative and judicial branches – and so have those in those branches!  So…

In your organization, take a look and see if you’ve given those with the responsibility the actual power and authority to be responsible.   Have you empowered teams to actually accomplish their objectives? Do you hold people accountable for things they cannot control or direct? When you give someone the “power” without the tools and teams to make it real, frustration and anxiety increase which decreases morale, productivity and of course passion.  Would you want to be in that position?

Knowledge:  It’s virtually impossible to sift the fact from fiction between the candidates and facts can be in the eye of the beholder - context matters.  Few U.S. citizens do as much due diligence into the candidates they vote for as they do into the new TV, smartphone or car they will buy.  Part of this has to do with lack of interest, lack of understanding of the ramifications, and lack of education – and I don’t mean K-12 or college.  I mean lack of true education of what it means to be a citizen of the U.S.A. and our responsibility to maintain our freedom.  Thomas Jefferson wisely stated, “An educated citizenry is a vital request for our survival as a free people.”  We risk losing our freedom by abdicating our role to the politicians to decide for us.  So…

In your organization, do you provide, educate, train, and teach your people the knowledge they need to really do their job? To understand and embrace the mission and purpose? To identify with your customers’ issues and challenges that you are trying to solve? Do you view them as “career-long learners” who want and need continuing education on matters directly and indirectly relevant to their responsibilities, now and in the future?  Do you have an educated ‘citizenry’ of employees who can do their jobs and delight your customers excellently?

Let me challenge you this election season to not only go vote – our duty and our incredible right - but to look at your organization and assess how you are doing in supporting and encouraging it’s Respect, Power and Knowledge.  Be grateful for our rare and incredible freedom – and give that to your people as well.