I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my mother always emphasized the importance of showing respect to others. She taught my siblings and me that we should be kind and polite to every person we encountered. When she thought that my sister, brother or I were getting a little too arrogant, her favorite phrase was, “Do not get above your raising.” Looking back, this is one of the great life lessons I have learned, especially as I have taken on leadership roles. I learned to appreciate the work of everyone – each person’s contribution is needed to assure that we can provide great care to our patients. I am grateful for a wonderful mother who modeled the way for being courteous, kind and polite in all her interactions.
The word “respect” is often used in our day-to-day conversations, because it encompasses a wide range of actions that show we value and have concern for others. At UTMB, one of our core values is respect. Having respect for someone could mean that we admire them because of their abilities, qualities or achievements; but more importantly, when we demonstrate respect to others, it is because we value their feelings, wishes and rights; we recognize that they are a human being, and we care about how we treat them. Just as with our core value of integrity, when we respect others, we do the right thing by them because we know it is what should be done.
I recently read a story about a business student who did well on her final exam—until she came to the last question: “What is the name of the person who cleans your dorm?” She stared at it in disbelief. How could she be expected to know the answer to that? What did this have to do with her business degree? Finally, she asked the professor if the question really counted toward their final grade. “Of course it does!” he replied. “Most of you dream about becoming the president and CEO of a successful company. But success is a team effort. A good leader takes nothing for granted and recognizes the contributions made by everyone on the team.”
When we recognize the strengths and importance of individuals on our team, people feel valued. When we respect one another, we encourage each other to leverage those strengths. In turn, everyone on the team will naturally want to do their best. In this way, we learn from one another and are then collectively able to achieve what an individual alone could not. This is especially important because we all ultimately work together to serve a single purpose at UTMB: to provide the best service and safest possible care for all of our patient and their families.
Let’s consider for a moment what happens when a team or an organization does not embrace respect. Lack of respect immediately impedes the team’s ability to achieve success. After all, when people believe their managers and colleagues don’t really care, how likely are they to give their best? How often will they feel encouraged to be innovative or to collaborate? We can use the word “respect” each and every day, but if we don’t behave in ways that demonstrate respect, it makes it difficult for others to trust us.
When we treat others with respect, we treat them as we would like to be treated. But respect is also a two-way street—we have to give it to receive it. Just as with any other value we hold in high regard, this may require daily reflection about how well we have demonstrated it. After all, we are all works in progress! Just as acting with integrity inspires others to do the same, treating others with respect encourages others to act in kind ways. By recognizing that both integrity and respect are at the foundation of a Culture of Trust and by working each day to demonstrate them, we take the most important step toward truly achieving it.
We can incorporate simple gestures into our daily routine to show our colleagues, patients and families we value and respect them:
- Treat all people with courtesy, politeness, and kindness.
- Include all members of the team in meetings, discussions, training and events. If a goal or activity will impact the work of others, including them in the planning process is important.
- While not every person can participate in every activity, it is important not to marginalize, exclude or leave any one person out. Provide an equal opportunity for employees who are interested to participate in committees, task forces, or continuous improvement teams. And where participation is not always possible, keep communication flowing so that people know what is being planned.
- Show respect by listening and engaging during discussions and meetings. We value the thoughts and opinions of others, even when we may think or feel differently. It’s all about the freedom to go into a room, honestly address an issue and—even if no one agrees with you—you know you will be treated with respect.
- Encourage others to express opinions and ideas.
- Use people’s ideas to change or improve work. Let your team members know you used their idea, or, better yet, encourage the person with the idea to implement or help implement it.
- Listen carefully to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint. Try to never speak over or interrupt another person.
- Do not assume we know what someone is going to say; you may jump into the conversation with the wrong conclusion.
- Show patience as you listen to another person’s ideas or points of view.
- Don’t start formulating a response before you hear the person out. The minute you start doing that, you are no longer listening!
- Do not criticize others over little things; and don’t belittle, judge, demean or patronize. Never disparage or put down people or their ideas. A series of seemingly trivial actions added up over time can leave a bad impression.
- Call people, write thank you notes, and send emails to acknowledge their achievements—try to do something each day that puts a smile on someone’s face.
- Never take existing relationships for granted or forget them as you create new relationships.
- Embrace diversity: treat people the same no matter their race, religion, gender, size, age, or country of origin.
As we show respect for all, we will be living another of UTMB’s important values.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.” ― Laurence Sterne