Much has been written and talked about over the last two years about the “human side of lean” and the “respect for people” pillar of TPS. Only through our own failings, my colleagues and I learned the hard way that lean is a human system as we started focusing on how we manage, lead, engage and build a culture of lean many years ago.
In talking about ‘respect for people’ much of the focus, including on this blog, has been on leaders in companies NOT respecting people and exhibiting behaviors very counter to this belief. I’m not going to disagree with anything specific, because most of it is justified, but do want to offer a shift in perspective. We make a big deal about respecting people, and at the same time we engage in CEO-bashing as if they were not humans themselves. When I visit companies and people start complaining about the executives, words are often thrown around like ‘morons,’ ‘jerks’ or ‘narrow-minded self-serving greed mongers’ (OK, that last one is an extrapolation).
If we want others to practice ‘respect for people’ then we need to master it ourselves. If you feel your executives are ‘morons,’ I can promise you that this belief shows through in your behavior, tone and words no matter how hard you try to filter it out. Even if justified, this ultimately makes you ineffective at changing any of these behaviors.
Before you dump on me with all the specific examples of people that don’t deserve respect, I agree that there are many, many people out there that may not deserve any respect. But most executives, even if you don’t understand them, want the same things. They want the business to improve, for people to be valued, for the ‘team’ to be on one page and for the organization to move forward. They too are stuck in a ‘bad system’ and often feel equally helpless. Even the CEO has a boss, whether it is the board of directors or even the bank.
So whether you agree with that or not, I’ll come back to and focus on my premise: the best way to spread ‘respect for people’ is to master it yourself. What does this mean? Don’t jump to judgement without first understanding. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Seek to understand their point of view. And help them eliminate the burden and frustration that surrounds them.
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