y parents were deeply compassionate people. From them, I learned lessons I hope I’ve passed on to my own children, especially about respecting people regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, or the mistakes they made in the past. These lessons are etched into my way of looking at the world, including my career.
I started out my career as a mental health nurse. Along the way, a change in the healthcare system made me a civil servant, which seemed to put me on a more administrative path. I became responsible for leading budgets and staff of increasing sizes, and while you might think that this “sterilization” of my career track would make me lose sight of people and the things they need to thrive, it’s really done quite the opposite.
Over the years, I’ve stepped into repeated situations where my thinking on the fundamental power of respect was tested. Experience distilled my style of leadership down to three essentials.
1. Liberating talent. As a leader, I want to work hard to liberate as much talent in the organization as possible. When people have their say and know that they are taken seriously when they suggest new, different ways to do things, talent blooms down every hallway. Demonstrating that you believe in others’ potential helps them believe in themselves, too.
2. Profound belief in knowledge. Paid staff, donors, volunteers, patients—everyone has life experience knowledge, and a healthy organization is a respectful, welcoming place where sharing knowledge creates even greater connectedness. We are all in this together, and even a CEO can learn much from the janitor who mops the floor.
3. Purpose beyond self. Whether in a for-profit or not-for-profit setting, reminding people that they’re doing more at work than just earning a paycheck unquestionably leads to greater creativity, productivity, and inspiration to excellence. At the Church Health Center, we have a clearly-stated mission of providing the working poor with quality healthcare, so it’s easy for our employees to reference that greater-good factor during their daily activities. But even if your organization’s big-picture identity isn’t so obvious, it’s still there. You just have to find it.
I believe all three of these tenets can be mediated through respect, by seeing people as whole beings, body and spirit. Maintaining respect is difficult at times, but the dividend it pays back is worth the investment. Its culture is one of innovation that improves the health of a community by drawing on resources already there.
What in your life inspires you to be the best you can be? Tell me in the comments! I’m here to learn from you.