How much respect is there in your organization?

August 17th, 2013 @   -  No Comments

The Prophet (PBUH) told us, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” We all know that the basis of excellence in character is respect for everything around us. As Muslims, we have been instructed to respect our parents, neighbours, family, elders, young, leaders, the animals around us and the nature that we live in. Respect is indeed a universal value. There is no religion or moral code that does not enjoin respect as a high value.

Most organizations I have dealt with include respect as one of their core values. Indeed, no organization can survive for a long time if its people do not respect each other or their various stakeholders. The question is not whether or not respect is good, it is how to be respectful at all times with all those around us. As a leader, how are you ensuring that your organization upholds the value of respect for all its stakeholders? How do you know if respect is truly a key value in your organization?

 Respect is a two way process between the various parties. Party A will not enjoy the respect of Party B if Party A does not first respect Party B. So what are the fundamental pillars of respect in an organization?

 Here are the key pillars on which you can build a culture of respect in your organization:

 1.      Clarify the roles

 Is your organization structured in a way that enables its various components to play their roles without stepping on the toes of others? Do you have at least one annual meeting of the General Assembly of Members or Stakeholders to discuss main policy issues and to clarify key objectives and values for the organization? Do these meetings hold the Board of Directors accountable for the results they have produced over the past year? Does the Board of Directors reflect the various stakeholders? Is it strong enough to hold the executive management accountable? Does the executive management have enough freedom and authority to do its job well? Or is it subject to constant interference from either the Board or other influential members? If you get any of these wrong you get conflict of interests, which leads to lack of respect in your organization.

 2.      Have a clear mission

Once you have the proper structures in place, do you have a clear mission? I have seen many Muslim organizations with confused missions. For example, I have seen schools that want to be both community schools, accommodating all children from the community, and elite schools, which want only the best and the brightest. This confusion leads to a lot of frustration and friction between the administration, teachers, parents and students. As a leader, do you know what your organization really stands for?

3.      Have clear values, policies and procedures

 Values, policies and procedures clarify how the various components of the organization interact and deal with each other. All parties should adhere to these. If any party happens to disagree with any of these, let them suggest changes, which must be adopted by the right authority in the organization. No one should be able to deviate from or change the rules of the game unilaterally. People should avoid bending the rules to satisfy a particular constituency of the organization. This will clearly show a lack of respect for the other constituencies. It is not just a matter of keeping to the letter of the mission, values or policies, it is important to keep to their spirit as well.

4.      Allow each one to perform to their best

Many organizations, especially those run by volunteers, do not allow all their volunteers or members to give their best. You often find the management and decision making concentrated in the hands of a few while the majority of volunteers are there just to provide the labor. Obviously the work needs to be done and some volunteers have to do it. However, respect for these volunteers means you use their full skills, competencies and intellect.

5.      Create open space for the sharing of ideas and providing feedback.

 Does your organization have a system through which your stakeholders can express their feedback and ideas on how to make things better? Many Muslim organizations are surrounded by excellent professional capabilities but they fail to engage them and take advantage of them keeping things within a narrow circle of trusted like-minded buddies. This, in my view, is the lowest level of respect for the organization and its stakeholders.

Respect does not just mean talking to people in a nice way. It means creating an atmosphere where each interested stakeholder can provide the best they can for the organization.

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