To me, respect for every individual means to have empathy for those around you; to think about the impact of your actions and behavior on others. I believe that in order to have empathy for someone you need to be able to walk in their shoes and understand their perspective.
The Shingo Model shows respect every individual at the base of the pyramid and lists it as a cultural enabler; meaning that it is part of the foundation that all other principles are built on. If your organization is not living this principle you will not truly be able to demonstrate any of the other Shingo principles.
So how do you show respect for someone?
Go to Gemba
Going to gemba is the best way I have found to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Observing and gaining an understanding of how someone does their job will help you be more respectful. Not only that but showing an interest in the work they are doing is another way to show respect for every individual. When you are in gemba ask humble questions and keep an open mind.
Create and Maintain a Safe Environment
People feel respected when they feel safe. Create and maintain a safe environment where staff can speak out and share ideas. Not only do staff need to feel that they are safe from physical harm, they also need to feel safe to bring forward concerns or ideas without retribution. To do this it is important that leaders practice active listening without interrupting and ask open-ended questions, presented in a humble manner. There also should be processes in place to collect feedback about staff concerns and improvement ideas.
Shift Accountability Closer to the Front Line
Shifting accountability as close to the front line as possible is another way to demonstrate respect for every individual. This behavior shows staff respect by allowing them to use their strengths and abilities to contribute to the organization’s success. This will increase the level of pride they have for their work as well as their happiness at work. One word of caution, for this to be effective you must clearly define what a person is accountable for and respectfully hold them to it.
Another way to show respect is to develop your people. One great way to do this is to ensure that all staff members have an active development plan. When a leader shows that they are invested in the personal growth of their team it makes employees feel valued; and therefore respected.
Assume Best Intentions
Assuming best intentions means that you don’t react blindly to a situation. You must first seek to understand and ask clarifying questions. When you assume positive intent, you are looking for the “what” and the “how,” rather than the “who” and the “why.”
The Shingo principle respect every individual is foundational to creating a culture of continuous improvement and striving for organizational excellence. Without respect, none of the other nine principles will work. If you don’t get this principle right, it will undermine your entire culture transformation.
Paul Pejsa, Director