A couple of days ago I was talking to friend—a very experienced, knowledgeable business professional—about my book. He asked a couple of questions in good faith: “How can leaders ensure that they are behaving in an authentic manner so as to promote true employee engagement? How can they know whether or not they are really and truly treating their people with respect?”
I’m afraid that my response came up a little short on the good-faith scale—“How the #!%$@ should I know?!?! I’m not their shrink! Ask their parents! Ask their philosophy professors!! Ask their priests or rabbis!!!”—at which point the temperature in the room dropped noticeably.
My answer was, to use the technical term, kind of d***-ish. So I later sent him an email apologizing for my behavior and offering a more considered reply to his questions:
“I honestly don’t know how leaders can be more authentic,” I wrote. “And I do think that there is at least a pinch of irony involved in seeking help from others about 'how to be more authentic,’ no? It would require getting into some pretty deeply-rooted psychological stuff having to do with fundamental character traits, and I make no claims to such expertise. But if my book can help people recognize that questions like yours are precisely the ones they should be asking rather than spending all of their time on the mechanics of what they perceive to be engagement—items on a to-do list, if you will—then I think it will have made a useful contribution.
“As for treating people with respect, I think that the definition of respect offered in my book—giving due consideration to the other—can help demystify a concept that shouldn’t be so mysterious at all. It can help bring it down out of the clouds and make it understandable as something that anyone can begin to do—today—without permission, training, or an additional line-item on their budget.
“Sorry for being such a jerk earlier today, but the snap-hook I hit on #18 got the better of me.”
His questions were perfectly legitimate and sensible. I hope that my email response was more respectful (another pinch of irony) and maybe even be useful to you.