This is the ninth chapter of my (hopefully to be published) book, Some Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Earlier.
At time of writing, I just completed two weeks of tough reservist training on 12 Mar 2010, and one of the things that come to mind every time I go back to SAF is the issue of respect.
I think many young 19-year-olds assume that having a bar on the shoulder automatically meant that lower-ranked people should listen to you. This sad scenario doesn’t change even 10 or 20 years later, even though everyone has grown up, is earning their own keep and many have become parents. It’s impossible to pull rank on mature adults, so the only way is to influence people who are willing to listen to you based on how much they respect you.
And what puzzles me, back then and now, is how so many people don’t know that:
Respect is earned, not a given.
I don’t think I should go into a tirade about how one earns respect, but I’d like to share some general observations on who are the kinds of people who command my utmost respect.
Sometimes, you get a mix of a few of the below points in the same person, which is a great thing to experience. Often, you get none at all.
1. People who are truly good at what they do, and do not claim to be good at what they’re not.
Only consistent hard work, experience and a dash of inborn talent is required for this. I once knew someone who kept telling his platoon to do well for their IPPT fitness test, when he himself was unable to.
And really, if you’ve worked with enough people, it’s very easy to spot someone who’s good at what he does. The same goes for spotting people who are just eloquent with little substance.
This is especially so when you have talented people in the group who demand that their leaders be better than them in order for respect to be dished out.
But circumstances or politics often forces us to keep mum about what we see. Why stir trouble when you can’t change the person? Just dial down the Respectometer lor.
2. People who truly mean and practice what they say, and not repeat theory from some self-help book.
The key thing here is all about being sincere.
Talk is cheap, and remembering theory is easy. But I’ve seen so many people fail to grasp what the theory means in practice. You can see it in their eyes when they’re not sincere. They’re not interested in getting down and dirty with the work everyone is doing, but sometimes, they’re just focused on claiming the credit or limelight.
Having worked in the media for a long time, it’s obvious when someone is just saying things for the sake of doing so. That’s also how I avoided carrying out interviews that would never provide the info or quotes I needed.
3. People who really care for others and their feelings.
It’s easy to take command of a platoon or a business group, because you’ve been appointed to the job. It’s another thing to take on the cares and woes of every individual within the group, and develop them for greater things. There are some who desire so badly to be a leader or people manager, but who wants an uncaring person to lead for them? They won’t back you up when you’re down.
There are those who do try to care, but often they put their own interests before others and it shows too. The question here is whether you’re willing to be a selfless sacrificial lamb or learn how to manage people’s expectations that you’re not exactly a saint. I can respect these people if their self-interest does not bring down the situation or is actually necessary for the greater good, but there are many who won’t.
So, what will make you respect someone else?