3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team (Virtual Team Toolkit)

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team Overview:

  • Objective = Respect for your teammates is the foundation of a high performing team. These 3 questions are an easy way to discuss and build respect within the team
  • Team Size = Any group size will work
  • Time = 60 mins
  • Difficulty = Medium
  • Materials Required = No
  • Preparation Required = Yes
  • Technology Required = Video/phone conferencing

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

Why this is an important activity for your team

Respect for one another is the foundation of every high performing team. There is no way you can align around key strategic priorities, challenge each other’s ideas, or even hold each other accountable if you don’t respect each other. If you need to work with someone, then you need to respect them and they need to respect you.

Unfortunately, respect is not something that has a globally understood definition. Feeling like you are a respected member of the team feels different for different people. When I ran this exercise with my team, I felt that being a respected member of the team meant that people would listen to my ideas and respect my experiences. But my colleague believed that being a respected member of the team meant that people understood and appreciated the non-work side of his life.

Within my team, we had drastically different definitions of what respect meant within our teams context. Respect is something very personal, but unfortunately most teams do not take the time to understand our different views on respect. For example, people can easily confuse politeness with respect.

If you truly want to be a high performing team, you need to discuss what respect means to each of you, and work to integrate those definitions of respect into your teamwork. For example, I had a colleague that believed that respect was including her in some of my processes, but due to a time zone difference, I wasn’t including her out of respect for her work life balance. Even though I was trying to show my respect for her, she was feeling like she wasn’t a valued member of the team.

So what can your team do to start building that respect within your team? We recommend these 3 simple questions that you and your team should discuss.

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

Preparation – Why respect within your team is important

Either in an email or in a meeting, explain to your team that you will be running some team exercises designed to discuss and build respect within the team. If some of your team thinks there is already enough respect within the team, remind them that respect is a very personal concept, and it differs amongst people.

We also recommend that you share with them benefits of respect within a team. Here are two research studies and an interesting TED talk that are great to share:

  • Job Satisfaction – When people feel respected within their team, they are more satisfied in their jobs. For example, one Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) survey found that 72% of employees viewed respectful treatment of employees a “very important” factor in their job satisfaction.
  • Employee Engagement – I am not going to spend time writing why employee engagement is important, but if you don’t know, then here is a crash course in the benefits of employee engagement. But in regards to respect, a Harvard Business Review study found that respect within a team was the single most important contributor to improving engagement.

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

How to discuss these 3 Respect questions

There are two different ways to utilize these 3 questions that build respect within your team. Some teams might want to set aside a full meeting and discuss all the questions in one go. If you have the time, this is a great option as it will keep everyone focused on the overall concept of respect within your team. What you want to avoid is having everyone distracted by other parts of the meeting agenda.

The other way you can run this exercise is to split up the questions across multiple meetings. We don’t want respect to be something you just discuss once. So splitting it across multiple meetings is a great way to keep the concept alive in your team. But no matter which way you choose to discuss them, make sure you block enough time. We believe that 20 minutes per question is the minimum required time to discuss these concepts.

The 3 questions are:

  1. What does respect mean to me?
  2. I feel like I show respect to others when I …
  3. What actions can we take (individually or collectively) to improve how we show our respect to others?

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

Question 1 – What does respect mean to me?

Before we can start thinking of ways to improve respect within the team, we need to understand what respect means to everyone. That is why, the first question is all about hearing everyone’s perspective on what respect means to them personally. The goal is to highlight that we all view respect differently, so don’t spend time trying to agree on some dictionary level definition of respect.

If you or your people have difficulties answering this question, flip the question around. What does disrespect mean to you? Sometimes it is easier to generate examples of disrespect, and that can kickstart the ideas for what respect means.

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

Question 2 – I feel like I show respect to others when I…

Once we have understood our personal definitions of respect, it becomes a lot easier to start thinking about respecting others. The second question highlights how each of us think we are demonstrating respect through our actions. This is a critical question, because sometimes conflict can occur because person A feels disrespected by Person B, while Person B felt like they were being perfectly respectful.

We need to understand how our actions impact other people. Intending to be respectful isn’t enough. We actually need to demonstrate respect to the other person. Gone are the days of the Golden Rule: “Treat others how how you would like to be treated.” Instead we need to follow the Platinum Rule: “Treat others how they would like to be treated.”

As people start sharing their answers, push them to provide real life examples. It’s super easy to say something generic like “I’m show respect to others by listening to them”, but those kind of generic statements are helping the discussion. Instead, people should share real examples from the team on how they demonstrated that respect through listening.

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

Question 3 – What actions can we take (individually or collectively) to improve how we show our respect to others?

The final question is less about understanding everyone’s perspective, and more about improving respect as a team. Now some team’s want to jump straight to this question, as they want to start immediately ‘solving the problem’, but don’t let them. Make sure you truly discuss the previous 2 questions, and once you feel like you have a better understanding of each other, only then can you start on question 3.

When discussing this question, treat the discussion like a brainstorm. Don’t spend a lot of time talking about ‘why something will not work’ and instead focus on generating a lot of good ideas. A solution that might work for one person, will not work for another, so we need to make sure there are a lot of possible solutions for us to take.

That being said, respect is not something that can only be solved individually. The team needs to commit to things as well. That is why we also recommend that that team aligns around 1-2 actions that the team can commit to.

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

Follow up exercise – 1 on 1 conversations

The 3 questions are not meant to be the final action in building respect within your team. They are designed to start healthy conversations in the team. But ultimately, you need to do something with this new information. Just talking about it once is not enough.

That is why we recommend that the conversations continue after the team meeting. Specifically, you should ask your teammates to setup small 1 on 1s with the other members of the team where they can discuss respect between the two of them. These 1 on 1s don’t have to be formalized meetings. They can be over a coffee or tacked on to part of an existing discussion between the two.

During the 1 on 1s, the two teammates should talk about their answers to the respect questions, and how those answers impact how the two of them work together. I know from experience, these 1 on 1s highlighted important differences of perspectives between me and my teammates. Without these meetings, these differences would easily have escalated into legitimate conflicts.

3 Questions to Build Respect Within Your Team

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