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Earning Other People's Respect Comes Down to These 3 Things Respect at work doesn't automatically come with a fancy job title, according to the new book, "Stop the Shift Show."

By Scott Greenberg

Key Takeaways

  • Previous generations gave employers respect based on their job titles. These days, authority must be earned.
  • Respect comes down to three things: character, connection, and competence.
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The following is an excerpt from business expert Scott Greenberg's new book, Stop the Shift Show: Turn Your Struggling Hourly Workers Into a Top-Performing Team, available now.

Things have changed with the attitudes of today's hourly workforce. Previous generations gave employers respect based on their job titles. Not anymore. These days, authority must be earned. You need to behave in ways employees like and respect to get them to behave in ways you like. And that's something I like. No one is entitled to anything, including respect. If younger generations are forcing bosses to up their game, that's a good thing. We all need to be held accountable.

So how can you increase your credibility and up your game? It comes down to three things: character, connection, and competence.

Character

Who you are and how you are matters to your employees. No one likes a boss who cuts corners, breaks rules, or preys on customers. They don't want to work for someone who belittles their employees or gossips. Workers want a role model. Employees are watching the way you act, the way you work, and the way you live. But true character is about how you behave even when no one is watching. When you always do the right thing, you never have to worry about getting caught.

Character is easy to understand conceptually. The hard part is practicing it, especially when there's temptation. The wrong way of doing things is often easier, more profitable, or more fun. When I was a teenager, a group of us were invited into a movie theater for free by a friend who was taking tickets at the door. One member of our group was home on spring break from West Point. Instead of walking in with the rest of us, he bought a ticket. Why? Because of the West Point honor code. I never forgot that. Seeing his higher standard of behavior made me much more self-conscious of my own. That's what being a good role model does.

Buy 'The Shift Show' Now: Entrepreneur Bookstore | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In an hourly work environment, you can demonstrate character in a few small ways that make a big impression. Follow the company rules, systems, and protocols. Be in uniform and show up on time. Speak respectfully, not just to people but about people. That includes customers, other managers (and upper management), and most certainly employees. Always tell the truth and follow through on your promises. When you make a mistake, be willing to admit it. These are all the things you want your employees to do. Show them how to be the person you want them to be.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." Living this way didn't just win Wooden the respect of his players. It also won him 10 national championships in 12 years.

Competence

If character is who you are, competence is what you do. Doing it well is important to being influential. Winning 10 national championships commands respect. So does winning awards, driving sales, and hitting company goals. Employees want to work for a winner, for someone who gets things done. That's why it's important for you to be great at your job. Your technical skills will go a long way toward making your workers want to listen to you.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, "Modern evidence demonstrates, for example, that hospitals may do better if led by doctors rather than by general managers, that U.S. basketball teams do better when led by a former All-Star basketball player, that Formula One racing teams do better if led by successful former racing drivers, and that universities do better when led by top researchers rather than talented administrators."

The authors of the article studied 35,000 randomly selected employees in the U.S. and the UK. They determined that "the benefit of having a highly competent boss is easily the largest positive influence on a typical worker's level of job satisfaction." Among the American workers they studied, the impact of a technically competent boss was even more significant on employee satisfaction than a high salary.

Work to improve yourself as much as you work to improve your organization.

Connection

People relate to each other in one of two ways: by what they are or by whom they are. Throughout the day we interact with people based on what they are. If you buy a bottle of wine at the store, you bring the bottle to the register, where the cashier rings it up and tells you the price. You pay and receive a receipt. You thank the cashier, who wishes you a good day. Both of you are relating to each other based on what you are: a customer and a cashier. The encounter may have been friendly, but you're not friends.

That evening, you bring the wine to a dinner party. There are handshakes and hugs. You ask about each other's lives. You share stories and laugh, and you get to know everyone a little better. At certain points, there's some vulnerability and reveal of emotion. It's a nice evening that brings everyone closer together and an experience everyone wants to reexperience sometime soon. You've related to each other based on who you are. You have no feelings about the cashier who sold you the wine. But for these friends with whom you drank it, you'd do anything.

Many bosses see their employees only as what they are: as personnel, not people. They may say please and thank you, they may offer some praise or even politely ask about their personal lives, but they don't acknowledge their individuality. They don't consider their employees' desires, fears, or humanity. They don't make their employees feel seen or cared about. And that disconnect is typically reciprocated—all the employees see is a manager, not a person who happens to be managing.

People who make us feel seen will more easily earn our trust. They matter when we matter. In the introduction, I mocked the platitude, "Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care." But we really do respond to people we feel are invested in our growth.

You can't be friends with your employees, nor can you remember every detail about them. But whatever you can do, whatever moments you can share with them will go a long way. When you hire and onboard an employee, sit down with them and have a conversation. Find out a little about them and share a little about yourself. Ask about their life goals and how this job might help move them a little closer to those goals. Find a way to relate as people, appropriately but warmly. Continue having those conversations. Look for moments to reconnect whenever you can.

Many hourly workers lead some pretty tough lives. Your workplace might be the best place where they spend time. Maintain boundaries, but be real, be compassionate, and be kind. Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar CEO Jonathan Weathington put it quite simply to me: "Just be nice to people. If you can just offer an ounce of being a pleasant person, they'll run through a wall for you."

Get more management tips and strategies from 'Stop the Shift Show,' available now at the Entrepreneur Bookstore.

Scott Greenberg

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Franchise Expert, Speaker & Author

Scott Greenberg designs game-changing steps to grow businesses, build high-performing teams and create unforgettable customer experiences. For ten years Scott was a multi-unit, award-winning franchise owner with Edible Arrangements. His operation won international recognition: "Best Customer Service" and "Manager of the Year," out of more than 1000 locations worldwide. Today he's a sought-after international speaker, consultant and franchise coach, with clients that include McDonalds, Great Clips, GNC, RE/MAX, Smoothie King, Global Franchise Group and countless other companies in all 50 U.S. states and throughout the world. He's also a VIP Contributing Writer for Entrepreneur.com. Going beyond numbers and profits, Scott delves into the human-side of business to help organizations boost performance and make a memorable impact on the lives of customers and employees. Scott is the bestselling author of The Wealthy Franchisee (2020), as well as his newest book Stop the Shift Show (2024).

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