Can a written “Code of Respect” bring out the best in your people and raise your employee culture to new-found levels of effectiveness and health? The answer comes alive in 10 truths no one can deny.
Quote: Bill Hybels is 110% accurate when he recently told the Global Leadership Summit, “We’re living in an era of cruel, even bitter, criticism and a growing epidemic of disrespect.”
Quandary: Disrespect in the workplace comes at the cost of declining performance, disregard of coworkers and customers.
Quiz: How can you tone down and turn back contempt that can poison any culture?
Kathy Shingleton is Vice President of Human Resources at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. I was fortunate to work with her on the Compensation and Benefits Committee while I served on their Board of Directors. With 6,000 employees, VMMC has built a stellar global reputation for quality, safety and patient satisfaction. So how did they create their “Respect for People Initiative?”
The Action Steps
“At Virginia Mason, respect for people is at the core of our culture. This includes how we treat one another to create what we call “the perfect patient experience.”
Kathy emphasizes that VMMC believes all people have equal value and therefore deserve to be treated equally. This was the starting point of Virginia Mason’s, collaborative, ground-breaking effort called, “Respect for People” initiative.
The initiative resulted from a broad, team-based work that was birthed as a result of the innovative Virginia Mason Production System. The “Respect for People” initiative was in its beginning stages when Kathy joined VMMC in 2011.
The centerpiece of the program creation was a four-week-long effort that involved 500 employees in 18 listening sessions. Notice the power of good questions:
- To get at a true meaning of respect in the Virginia Mason culture, each person was asked:
“How have you been recognized for your work? Have you felt appreciated? Have you been thanked for your contribution?
- Most importantly, participants were asked, “What does respect mean to you? What kinds of things happen at work when you feel respected?
The collective responses from 4,809 employees represented the “raw material” that was refined into ten foundational behaviors, the centerpiece of Virginia Mason’s Code of Respect:
1. Listen to Understand
Good listening means giving the speaker your full attention. Nonverbal cues like eye contact and nodding let others know you are paying attention and are fully present for the conversation. Avoid interrupting or cutting others off when they are speaking.
2. Keep Your Promises
When you keep your word you show you are honest and you let others know you value them. Follow through on commitments and if you run into problems, let others know. Be reliable and expect reliability from others.
3. Be Encouraging
Giving encouragement shows you care about others and their success. It is essential that everyone at Virginia Mason understand their contributions have value. Encourage your coworkers to share their ideas, opinions and perspectives.
4. Connect with Others
Notice those around you and smile. This acknowledgement, combined with a few sincere words of greeting, creates a powerful connection. Practice courtesy and kindness in all interactions.
5. Express Gratitude
A heartfelt “thank you” can often make a person’s day and shows you notice and appreciate their work. Use the Virginia Mason Applause system (an internal recognition program), give the colleague a handwritten note or verbal praise, or share a story of “going above and beyond” at your next team meeting.
6. Share Information
When people know what is going on, they feel valued and included. Be sure everyone has the information they need to do their work and know about things that affect their work environment. Sharing information and communicating openly signals you trust and respect others.
The mutual respect I see today at Virginia Mason has transformed our overall patient satisfaction and reputation.”
7. Speak Up
It is our responsibility to ensure a safe environment for everyone at Virginia Mason, not just physical safety but also mental and emotional safety. Create an environment where we all feel comfortable to speak up if we see something unsafe or feel unsafe.
8. Walk in their Shoes
Empathize with others and understand their point of view and their contributions. Be considerate of their time, job responsibilities and workload. Ask before you assume your priorities are their priorities.
9. Grow and Develop
Value your own potential by committing to continuous learning. Take advantage of opportunities to gain knowledge and learn new skills. Share your knowledge and expertise with others. Ask for and be open to feedback to grow both personally and professionally.
10. Be a Team Player
Great teams are great because team members support each other. Create a work environment where help is happily offered, asked for and received. Trust that teammates have good intentions. Anticipate other team members’ needs and clearly communicate priorities and expectations to be sure the workload is level-loaded.
All ten points are integrated in VMMC’s other HR systems, such as “Performance Success (management)” that involves timely feedback and flow.
“Culture is what the majority of people do a majority of time. And behaviors define culture.
“Through our ‘Respect of People’ initiative, respect is now hard-wired in our culture. The behavior between our team members and our people and our patients is different. I know the mutual respect I see has transformed our overall patient satisfaction, quality measures, recruitment and national reputation.
Kathy, a follower of Christ, says this: “I would encourage ministry leaders to take the time to define what respect means to the people in their organization. Don’t assume that respect will always exist because you’re all followers of Jesus Christ. What does “Love one another” really mean? Where does it show up in your culture?”
The Employee Engagement Survey
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