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How to Earn the Respect of Others

By Dr. Alan Zimmerman

"The real work in 'Moral Values' is for all of us to close the gap between our creeds and deeds. The hypocrite lives in the world of words alone." —Dr. Sidney B. Simon
You don't hear it spoken too much any more, but years ago, people would often say, "I want to make a name for myself." And it wasn't a bad goal by any means. In fact, having a "good name" was and is the very foundation of leadership and customer service.

Of course, there are many, many ways "to make a name for yourself." You can make a Guinness World Record by swallowing the most goldfish in an hour, wearing the most T-shirts at one time, dangling the most weight from a swallowed sword, or doing a million other feats.

But you want to do more than simply "make a name for yourself." You want it to be the RIGHT kind of name. Even the Bible says having the RIGHT kind of name is more important and more valuable than having a lot of money. I agree. So what does it mean to have the RIGHT kind of name?

It boils down to a simple formula. REPUTATION + CHARACTER = RESPECT. You earn the RESPECT of others when your public REPUTATION and private CHARACTER are above reproach. And you've got to have both.

If you only focus on reputation, you'll get sidetracked. You'll spend too much time on image and popularity and too little time on doing what is right. If you only focus on character, you may be a really nice person or a very fine company, but nobody will know you exist. And that makes it very hard to stay in business.

To earn the RESPECT of others, to make a name for yourself, you've got to follow 6 practices...

  1. Practice integrity.
    Malcolm Forbes, the founder of "Forbes" magazine, said integrity is the basis for all true success. It starts with telling the truth ... even when it's not easy or convenient. If you do anything less than that, you damage your credibility and minimize the respect others give to you. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, "He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him."

    Integrity starts with telling the truth and goes on to include doing what's right.

    A while ago, William Clay Ford, Jr., the chief executive at the Ford Motor Company, demonstrated that. When the Ford Motor stock was downgraded, when there was a fall in prices and revenues, Ford told company shareholders at their annual meeting that he would not accept any compensation from the company until profits from the automotive division improved.

    WOW! Usually we read just the opposite. As a company's fortunes fall, the big guys still take in huge amounts while the troops lose jobs, benefits and pensions. Of course, this scenario is the antithesis of leadership. Not Ford. He did what was right. He was willing to step up and accept responsibility for all his actions, decisions and results. He was willing to admit mistakes rather than give an evasive, spineless, pass-the-buck kind of comment such as, "Mistakes were made."

  2. Practice humility.
    As Sam Palmisano, the CEO of IBM said, "Some of the best advice I ever received was unspoken. Over the course of my IBM career I've observed many CEOs, heads of state, and others in positions of great authority. I've noticed that some of the most effective leaders don't make themselves the center of attention."  They're humble.

    And it's not all that difficult to be humble or practice humility. All you have to do is realize that every person you meet is better than you are at something. So it makes no sense to carry around a sense of pride or arrogance. Indeed, as the ancient text warns us, pride comes right before the fall. Be humble or you will stumble.

    Ted Williams, the great baseball player, had to learn that lesson the hard way. As Fay Vincent writes in "The Last Commissioner," one time Ted registered in a Florida hotel under the name of Al Forrester. The clerk recognized him and asked, "Are you really Al Forrester? You look just like Ted Williams."

    Ted responded, "Who is Ted Williams?" The clerk continued, "He was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Are you sure you are not Ted?"

    Ted responded again, "I don't follow baseball. The game is too slow. I really don't know who he is." They continued speaking about baseball until Ted excused himself. The clerk called out, "I guess you're not Mr. Williams as you are a very nice person, and he is a pain in the neck."

    So the practice of humility is refusing to act like a big shot. And it's asking for forgiveness when you mess it up.

    I remember one high school principal who made a serious mistake, and everyone in the school knew he made a serious mistake. He got on the intercom and apologized to every student ... even though he was concerned about losing their respect as a result of his mistake and his apology. On the contrary, he became the most popular and respected high school principal in the district. Months afterwards, students came up to him and said they wished they had a father like him, as their fathers couldn't ever admit they were wrong.

    When you make a mistake that harms other people, don't delay in picking up that phone, scheduling that meeting, or writing that letter to apologize and ask for forgiveness. No matter what they do with your apology, you need to do it. You need to practice humility.

    Will Rogers, the American humorist, talked about what happens to people who don't practice humility. As he put it, "After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut."

  3. Practice dependability.
    The most respected folks tend to be the most dependable folks. They're reliable, consistent, and predictable. If they say it, they mean it. Such was the case in Los Angeles where the police put together a lineup of suspects in a recent robbery. The detectives asked each man in the lineup to repeat the words: "Give me all your money or I'll shoot." Immediately, one man shouted back, "That's not what I said!"

    Dependable folks say what they mean and mean what they say. And if they promise it, they do it. The world champion bicyclist Lance Armstrong is known for his dependable follow-through. As he says, "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." So he doesn't quit.

    You might ask yourself how dependable you are. Do you keep your promises? Can you be counted on keep your word? If so, you've mastered one of the elements that will garner the respect of others.

  4. Practice priorities.
    You get self-respect ... as well as the respect of others ... when you know what you value and live by what you value. You know your priorities and base your work and life on those priorities.

    As the great poet Maya Angelou notes, "I've learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life." She's right on.

    And yet too many people spend their lives trying to get to the top of the corporate ladder ... or whatever ladder ... only to realize the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. The truth is ... people respect people who have clear, worthwhile goals and priorities and dedicate the right amount of time to those goals and priorities.

  5. Practice generosity.
    No one is ever respected for what she receives. A person is only honored for what she gives. As 19th century historian Charles Kendall Adams noted, "No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction."

    Such was the case with Andrew Carnegie. After he died, they found a note he had written in his early 20's, saying he wanted to spend the first half of his life accumulating as much money as he could and spend the second half giving it all away. And that's what he did. During his life he accumulated a $450 million fortune and gave it all away.

    The only problem with that approach is no one is guaranteed the second half of life. So practice generosity now ... in the present ... and in the future ... if you want to earn the respect of others.

  6. Practice spirituality.
    And please note, I said "spirituality," not "religiosity." There is a difference. Over the years, when polls have been taken around the world, asking people to list the people they respect the most, the top 10 list has always included the spiritual giants of their generation. The respondents have consistently included people such as Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama. And strangely enough, even though the respondents may not have the same beliefs as the spiritual giants they list, the respondents still have enormous respect for them.

    If you want the respect of others, then grow up spiritually. As Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us years ago, "The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

List the 6 practices that earn the respect of others. And rate yourself on each of those practices using a 1 to 10 scale. If you rate less than an 8 on any one practice, then get to work on improving that practice.
As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has taught more than one million people in 48 states and 22 countries how to keep a positive attitude on and off the job. In his book, PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success, Dr. Zimmerman outlines the exact steps you must take to get the results you want in any situation. Go to Alan's site for more information.
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