"Restore the Importance of Humanity, Dignity and Respect among our young people, community and Leaders" was a mission statement that came to me in prayer almost 20 years ago after the Columbine shooting in Colorado. I remember praying to God and asking what is going on in this country and what is going wrong that we need to address in order to stop this kind of violence that now has only gotten worse. What has been my personal mission statement since that time was this answer..."Restore the Importance of Humanity, Dignity and Respect,"and now I think it is more relevant than ever!
When this message first came to me, I decided to look up the definitions of each of the words God gave to me. Here are Webster's definitions and my comments....
Humanity: 1. The quality of being Human. hmmm. You mean humans have value? I am saying this satirically of course because sometimes we receive the message from the world that we don't have value. 2. Mankind collectively. So we are better together rather than isolated in our digital worlds. 3. Kindness; Benevolence. I think we need more of this everywhere and particularly in Leadership.
Dignity: 1. Nobility of the mind and character; worth. Nobility means greatness and excellence. Not settling for average or mediocre. 2. Stateliness of manner or carriage. Think how casual we have become with the way we present ourselves. What unintended message might we be sending? 3. Degree of importance 4. Office or position bestowing honor; high rank
Respect: 1. To esteem; regard with deference. Meaning to me you treat everyone for the value and worth they have as a gift they give you. 2. To concern; have to do with. Not looking the other way when something wrong is happening and thinking that it is none of your business. Everything we do and say impacts another human being beyond the one with whom we are directly communicating.
This brings to mind two stories that relate to part of the message in two of the definitions. Starting with Dignity. I remember we were doing a Leadership Training in Connecticut for an IT organization and about 25 of their IT Managers. Believe it or not, one of the first sessions was about how to communicate with more influence and what professionalism looks like in the workplace. We started a discussion around people's impression of you by the different ways you present yourself and when we got to how we dress, we were really caught by surprise. Usually this is a fifteen minute discussion at best, but this group was in debate mode. What our position was is the way you dress matters and effects the amount of credibility you might receive or be judged as having by another person. This group of IT Managers felt that this was outrageous that you be judged by your appearance and felt it was totally unfair. Where this may very well be true, it is still a human reality we are all guilty of doing at some point and time.
So I challenged these IT Managers,( who by the way showed up to this training in ripped jeans, dirty t-shirts and some wearing baseball caps backwards), to go food shopping the way they were dressed that day; and then again more dressed up and to notice the difference in how people interacted with them.
The very next session, about two weeks later, they all arrived in nice khaki pants or the like, clean golf shirts with collars and no hats. I forgot to mention that many did not bother to shave the first class. Yes it was all men in this class, and this time they were all clean-shaven. My colleague and I barely recognized them!! We asked what happened?! They said, we took on your challenge and you were right. When we went to the grocery store more cleaned up, people spoke to us and we got better service. Since dressing like this, our managers are now listening to us and our ideas, whereas before we could never get to square one with them. Interesting....
Now for the story that comes to mind with Respect meaning to have to do with or have concern for. In another Management Development curriculum I have been delivering for a Manufacturing organization, we were having a conversation about Responsibility and Respect and one of my participants shared this story.
It was New Year's Eve and they were in Center City on their way home and stopped at a stop light. They noticed in the car behind them that a man was really fighting with and abusing a woman in the car with him. Instead of ignoring it, they got out of the car and knocked on their window asking what was going on? This took incredible courage as they could have been putting their lives on the line to save this woman. Thankfully another bystander had called the cops. (which is what I would have done from my car) But who knows what they might have prevented by their bold actions! What courage! What caring! Now I am not encouraging you to put your life at risk, but I am saying pay attention and be there for others showing you care. That is just part of demonstrating Respect!
So as we start this New Year, how will you "Restore the Importance of Humanity, Dignity and Respect" in your life, with those you love, with those with whom you work?
As always, I welcome your comments and feedback and would love to hear how you will answer this question for 2017!
Happy New Year!
Yours with Trust,
Dana Riker Jackson