One look can change the face of your business.

About morality and Business

3:58 p.m. Is this detail useful to you? I doubt. Yet it is important. “There is always a first night,” says André Brink, a South African writer I love. Well I say: “there is always a first hour“. The moment we pick up the pen. Not to write a brief. A recommendation. A strategy, a poem. Not even to create credibility or increase our chances of being seen, heard, adored, followed. I have nothing to sell but rather everything to share: my experience, my journey, my small and big finds… hoping to resonate with your own thoughts.

I cannot guarantee the regularity of this writing exercise but I promise to try. My pen and my verse can indeed get lazy at times. When they start daydreaming, time stretches! So here it is. I would like to talk to you about Respect. This word brandished, like a shield. Or a banner. Seven letters.

Respect. What of it ?

During my protean career, the term respect is probably the one I have heard the most. And in inverse proportion, the one I have seen practiced the least. It is with respect as with those trompe-l’oeil that furnish, organize and aestheticize  the void. Yet without respect, it is impossible to have effective verbal, written or even gestural communication.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not referring here to the civilities shown by your/our colleagues, partners, associates, customers, bosses, interlocutors and employees. Respect, in my opinion, rhymes neither with politeness nor with etiquette; on the contrary, it is everything but kowtowing. Of course, we have an obligation to respect each other. But what does that mean exactly? Respect alludes to something else. Something much bigger. Deeper.

As proof, its Latin etymology. A radical “specere” = to watch and a prefix “re” meaning “back”, “behind”. Respect literally means looking back/behind or turning around to look.  This is revealing in so many ways. Respect therefore implies a triple action and, a small part of contortion, I grant you😊:

1: Get out of one’s own inner perimeter

2. Change position

3. Observe. In short, focus on what is happening outside of oneself

If you haven’t already, I invite you to include this move as part of your daily routine.

So what’s there behind when you turn around?

And, another variant, is there really a world outside oneself? If you answer in the affirmative (the answer, contrary to what you might think is not obvious), good sign! Hope is on 😊. Why?  Because when we agree to turn around, we turn away from ourselves and look at others. (I’m not talking about a quick peek or a  side-swipe).

Others are: Lives. Working hours. Talent. Light and shadow. Stories. Ocean. Volcanoes. Universes of unfathomable depths.

Wait a minute. I do not invite you to dive headlong and get lost in these abysses. I only ask you to open yourself to the possibility and reality of their existence. Respect is not like commiseration, compassion or empathy… even if it has the power to set them in motion. Respect brings into play the real recognition of the existence and importance of others. As subjects and not mere objects. This very recognition makes all the difference.

No wonder 20,000 employees worldwide ranked respect as the number one characteristic of leadership. (study conducted in 2018 by @christineporath, professor at Georgetown university). But It’s not just the employees. When I talk to entrepreneurs, the Respect/Euro exchange rate shoots to the roof. To them, 1 ounce of respect equals 5000 Euros 😊. And this rate gets higher and higher by the day.

You don’t feel concerned?

You think you are doing what is necessary. Not so fast! Advocated as a universal value, respect (this is where it gets tricky) is also a subjective concept. What you consider as a respectful behavior may be an unacceptable practice for others. Question of education, of culture. This therefore implies turning around to look but also looking twice.

What will you gain?

  1. The rewarding personal satisfaction of doing the right thing. (do not roll your eyes)
  2. The conditions for true communication. Because how to share and put in common (the first definition of the word communicate) when one does not consider or integrate the other?
  3. Last but not least, respect in return! It cannot be bought or demanded as you very well know. And It creates real wonders: unwavering loyalty to you and your business/project, passion for your various ventures, genuine commitment and great inputs. In a nutshell, exponentiation of creative energy and collective genius!

Did you know that 48% of employees treated with disrespect deliberately reduce their efforts at work by half? You can only imagine what happens with your partners, suppliers, etc.! Do you measure the damage? On your brand image? Your business? Your propensity to generate both greatness and momentum?

To illustrate my point, take a count of all your professional experiences where respect – as I understand it – was lacking. You will see how much its absence has destroyed any kind of value. I have asked around me. Here is a glimpse of what I have been told (coupled with my own experience):

  • An intense and time consuming project: no news from the client/partner weeks after the go to market phase.
  • A deafening silence following a series of promising interviews. A remuneration squeezing you like a lemon.
  • A non-payment which puts your life (literally) on the line.
  • A broken contract without notice. An exploitation of your work without remuneration or consent… An unfair dismissal. Humiliating remarks.
  • A condescending tone or attitude. Extreme pressure. Abusive practices. A broken word. Disrespect of your personal space and time…

Sadly, the list goes on.

So is it a matter of reinjecting morality into business?

Many believe that morality has little or nothing to do with business. (they will of course never put it out in public). That it is candor. Worse, a form of weakness. To hear them we should look straight ahead. Never behind.

But behind can lie the wounded and the dead. Mini-dramas that don’t make the front page of the newspapers. But permanently erode the confidence and the image that one can have of oneself and of others. Trigger a spiral of toxicity. Because those who do not respect or no longer respect, are the very ones who have not been respected nor taught genuine respect.

At a time when we are tasked with questioning our way of apprehending the universe, it is our way of apprehending one another that must ultimately be reconsidered. Time to turn around. To watch. To consider who and what we leave behind.

Of course, it is also time to remember Kant (you knew this was coming): “Act in such a way that you treat humanity both in your person and in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never simply as a means”. In short, the first rule of great communication.

It’s 6.00 pm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *