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Respect: Find out what it means to business

by HARVEY MACKAY
| May 12, 2024 1:00 AM

A wolf spent his nights howling at the moon. He was making fun of her, of how old she was, how slowly she moved and how little light she had. In the same forest, when the howling had stopped, the little hedgehog would come out to console the moon.

One day, both the wolf and the hedgehog were far from home and were caught unaware by a great storm. When the storm subsided, both animals were lost. As the moon came out, the wolf began his usual howling, while the hedgehog was feeling sad and frightened at being lost.

Before long, the hedgehog heard a voice calling him. It was the moon, who was so grateful for the hedgehog's constant help and advice. She gathered up all her light into one single ray, to help show the hedgehog how to get back safely.

The hedgehog arrived home in the early hours, while the wolf remained lost out in the darkness and scared to death. Only then did he realize that all his rudeness to the moon had been pointless and cruel. The moon didn't shine for him until the wolf asked for forgiveness for his bad attitude.

In every aspect of business, from the way we conduct ourselves with our colleagues to the manner in which we serve our customers, respect is a virtue that goes far beyond the emotion of liking someone. It is about acknowledging the inherent worth of individuals and valuing their contributions, regardless of whether you agree with them.

Respect in business is absolutely fundamental. It is the cornerstone of building trust, fostering effective communication and creating a positive work environment. When respect is present in a business setting, it can lead to a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity and improved customer satisfaction.

Here is why respect is so crucial in business:

Trust and integrity. Respect helps build trust between colleagues, managers and clients. When people feel respected, they are more likely to act with integrity and be trustworthy in return. Ask for and value their opinions and suggestions.

Effective communication. Respectful interactions are essential for problem-solving and decision-making. Use polite language and a friendly tone. Reply to emails, messages and calls in a timely manner.

Positive work environment. A respectful workplace promotes a sense of safety and belonging. Be mindful of physical boundaries and personal space. Respect the privacy of your colleagues and clients by not sharing personal or sensitive information.

Employee retention. Employees who feel respected are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and stay with a company, reducing turnover and the costs associated with hiring and training new staff.

Customer relations. Respect extends to how a business treats its customers. A respectful approach to customer service can lead to loyalty and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Early in my career, I was eager to make my mark and often found myself formulating responses rather than truly listening to what others were saying. One day, I was in a meeting with a potential client who was explaining the challenges his company was facing. Midway through his explanation, I began to interject with what I thought were solutions.

The client calmly said, "Mr. Mackay, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I am not sure you are really hearing me." That moment was a wake-up call. I realized that I was inadvertently showing a lack of respect for his experience and knowledge. This realization not only helped me to build stronger relationships but also allowed me to learn and better address others' needs. 

That client became one of our most loyal customers, and our business relationship lasted for many years. He later told me what convinced him to work with us was the respect I showed by listening and valuing his perspective.

If there was ever a time in our history when respect was less evident, I would suggest that time is now. We need to examine our relationships. Politics, social media, even our schools are rife with examples of disrespectful behavior.  

But all is not lost. It's possible to return to kinder times, when differing opinions were met with open minds. It's important to listen to other points of view. You may learn something that you hadn't considered before. And it could help you understand why others behave as they do. 

Mackay's Moral: Respect is not just a virtue; it is a vital business strategy that opens the door to success.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.