On Monday I made a big deal out of the high cost of disrespect and incivility in the workplace. It’s a big deal everywhere and it costs us much more than lost productivity at work. (Read that post here.)
Disrespect is the root cause of nearly every major social problem we face.
From violent crime to the ethical breakdown in politics and business to the erosion of traditional family values, you can trace each of these issues to a lack of respect.
The solution is a restoration of the discipline and practice of respect.
Black Belts do not leave respect up to chance. Respect is practiced as a discipline and embodied in several traditions and rituals to help remind us of the value that others have in our lives. These rituals are clear and visible demonstrations of our respect for others.
Let’s start with the simple bow.
One of the first things any new student will notice is that martial artists like to bow to one another…a lot! What’s it all about?
The bow is literally an act of lowering oneself in the presence of another. It shows that in that moment you are holding that other person in higher regard. Every time you bow you are consciously demonstrating the value that other person has in your life.It’s an acknowledgement of the part we all play in our one another’s lives.
We bow to show respect for our masters, our students and our training partners. Imagine a similar gesture for the people in your daily life at work, at school and even at home.
Another tradition is our titles.
Sensei is a word we use for teachers and masters in the dojo. The word literally means, “one who went before.”
The title “Sensei” is not intended to be a tool of the master to impose his authority on others; its a tool intended for the student to assure a receptive mindset in the student role. It’s an act of showing respect and regard for the knowledge, experience and wisdom the teacher will share with the student. It’s an acknowledgement of the investment in blood, sweat and tears that the Sensei made in attaining that wisdom and experience!
You don’t have to go around your office or school bowing and calling one another Sensei- though that wouldn’t be a bad idea!
Traditions and rituals are symbolic expressions- they help us model and practice the behavior they represent. These rituals become intentional habits, disciplines that help us stay on course.
Look at every one of the social problems I described above and you’ll find a lack of discipline. In it’s place you’ll find carelessness, complacency, selfishness and a lack of compassion, empathy and value for others.
I tell this story often…
Years ago I was asked to do a talk on respect and responsibility for a group of elementary school kids. I started my presentation just as I start any executive training in workplace respect today- I asked for a definition of the word “respect.”
One young man stood up, bowed and said:
“Sensei, respect means taking care of one another!”
You might as well have punched me in the gut! I literally had to sit down to catch my breath. Not only did this kid knock me completely off my prepared response; he literally changed my way of thinking.
Have you ever heard a better definition? Respect is an act of caring- the act of taking care of another person, things or time.
You can’t leave respect to chance.
As I said, respect is a discipline. You’ve got to practice! One way to practice is to develop specific rituals that help reinforce this act of “taking care.”
Practice those rituals consistently and you create a tradition of respect- at work, at home and in your community.
Do you want to create and maintain a culture of respect, discipline and focus in your business? On your campus?
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