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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, August 20, 2017 1:00 am

In 'era of divisiveness,' respect vital at work

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Tolerating people is for cowards.

A true test of leadership is when you “move into uncomfortable territory and seek to understand” others, Bill Hybels, the opening speaker at this year's Global Leadership Summit told thousands of listeners this month.

He devoted part of his presentation to the challenge of leading in “an era of divisiveness and disrespect.”

The leadership summit is broadcast from Willow Creek Church in South Barrington, Illinois, to hundreds of sites, including Fort Wayne. More than 4,200 attended locally at the local Memorial Coliseum satellite site.

Hybels, an author and pastor, cited one survey that indicates a large percentage of the workforce is treated rudely at least once a week. That reality has “far more than soft costs,” he said.

Performance goes down at least 50 percent until the issue underlying the rudeness or hostility is resolved. And disgruntled workers often take their frustrations out on customers, which has another cost if customers stop being customers as a result.

Hybels offered several tips to reduce divisiveness and disrespect. They include learning to have spirited, even animated conversations while still respecting others. Volume levels should be limited when speaking and “incendiary words” should be avoided, as should stereotypes. Those involved should avoid interrupting others when they are speaking, learn to apologize and set an example of being courteous in words and deeds. He referred to a book on civility he read recently, and said organizations should draft a “Code of Respect.”

It's important to be direct and honest, but also sensitive. And organizations should address incivility when it occurs, and maybe even with consequences for offenders.

Gender issues, feedback

Hybels also had a wide-ranging interview with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, in a separate session on the first day of the two-day summit. She is the author of the best-selling book “Lean In,” which focuses on resilience after setbacks. Sandberg is also known for addressing gender issues.

She said many people don't expect girls to lead. The next time you hear a girl called bossy, Sandberg suggested correcting them and saying “That little girl has leadership skills.”

People also often give men credit for women's ideas. We interrupt women, but not men, Sandberg said. “We blame women for not doing housework appropriately, and applaud men for doing any of it at all,” she said.

For those in management, Sandberg suggested hiring for the “people you're going to need, not the people you need.” Managers should hire employees who can help get them where they want to go – achieve the goals and vision.

For those on staff, Sandberg said she believes in giving feedback and being candid. Most initiatives fail “for reasons everyone knows but nobody says,” Sandberg said. Failures should be discussed – not swept under the rug – because that's how we can learn.

Sandberg, in responding to a question from Hybels about getting better and leadership development, put equal weight on those involved, saying individuals and their institution are responsible. “It is always both,” she said.

I'll share more from the summit next week.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at