May 19

Respectful Relationships are the Building Blocks of Trust

By Chuck Coker

We have the privilege of working with teams from a wide variety of business and social sectors, including financial services, manufacturing, government, and charity.

The LifeThrive team has observed a running theme in our work in recent weeks and that’s the need for our clients to be far more respectful of each other.

Sense of Safety

For a team to flourish, there needs to be a sense of safety, that the team is looking out for each other. Team members need to feel and know that others are not out to stab them in the back; quite the reverse, that there is a sense of safety and mutual support.

Too often, teams perceive strong threats from within, and often this is a result of disrespectful behavior. The environment becomes toxic, crushing creativity, openness, agility, cooperation, and motivation, let alone happiness.

Most people – certainly the teams that we are working with – don’t want that. They want to work well together and orientate their resources towards taking advantage of opportunities and dealing with external threats, rather than create in-team distress.

Foster Respect

A key to making this happen is to foster greater respect intentionally. This change begins with understanding what respect looks like to a particular team and then establishing an agreed set of behaviors that express those values.

Being able to say that’s not how we do things around here’s when someone demonstrates disrespect is the beginning of changing the culture for the better.

Specific measures of respect vary from team to team. However, there are common themes. We have summarised the five key areas on which to focus to establish a more respectful team environment:

1. Listening well

Be attentive and present in the conversation. Don’t look over your shoulder, at phones or laptops. Do use eye contact and demonstrate that you have understood the points being made by reflecting back and paraphrasing what you have heard. Don’t interrupt or cut across someone else

Have empathy for the other person’s perspective. Consider the issue from their perspective, thinking about their pressures and experiences

Consult with people that will be impacted by a decision before implementing it

2. Speaking well

  • Being supportive and affirming about colleagues to other people

  • Don’t say anything about a person that you wouldn’t want them to hear

  • Speak to someone rather than about them

  • Encourage publicly, correct privately

  • Argue against points, not the person

  • Speak more in person rather than via email. Use your phone to call people rather than message them

3. Grow in credibility

  • Be timely. Get to meetings on time. Finish meetings on time.

  • Prepare properly for conversations and meetings. Read the notes beforehand.

  • Follow through on promises.

  • Be mindful of personal differences; don’t just highlight them.

  • Make sure that decisions are made in the appropriate meeting rather than by cliques in the carpark/corridor/nearby pub.

  • Treat colleagues as valued customers.

4. Honesty

  • Challenge issues, but do so constructively (not just complaining)

  • Don’t just say what other people want to hear and then go away and do your own thing

  • Flag up mistakes early

5. Humility

  • Apologize when you have treated someone disrespectfully

  • Take personal responsibility for mistakes; don’t blame others

  • Give credit where it is due, don’t take credit for other people’s work

  • Ask for help and advice


These are some of the actions that we recommend to create a more respectful working environment. What actions would you include?

About the author 

Chuck Coker

For more than 30 years, Chuck has focused his career on people's development. He has implemented proprietary Personal Formation, Human Capital, Talent Management, and incentive-based programs across a broad scope of Fortune Companies, regional organizations, and educational institutions.


You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}