For much of our country, the battle to survive economically during the COVID-19 crisis is every bit as real as the war we’re waging against the virus. Entering what specialists have termed a “wartime economy,” many of today’s leaders are looking to wartime history for guidance. But today’s economic crisis, Oxford University’s Daniel Susskind warns, is framed by entirely different circumstances:
Perhaps, rather than lessons offered by wartime leadership giants, which focus on rebuilding business in a decimated economy, we would do well to study a more recent leadership approach: rethinking.
When Alan Mulally took over as Ford Automotive’s CEO in September 2006, the company was facing certain bankruptcy. Within the space of a single year, Mulally reduced its loss margin by $10 billion. By 2008, less than two years after he took the helm, Ford was profitable, again. At the heart of this success was what Mulally considers his most important contribution to the company: his “One Team” approach.
Every Thursday, Mulally held a business plan review meeting, or BPR, with all of his team leaders. Attendance was mandatory. In the days preceding the meetings, Mulally would engage employees from all levels of the company, seeking their input on what was working and not working in their respective areas, and he expected his leadership teams to do the same. During the BPRs, he and the team leaders shared what they’d learned with each other, along with progress data from their departments.
The first meeting was wildly unproductive. In spite of Mulally’s reassurance that honestly would not be penalized, team leaders presented their successes, but remained quiet about what was not working efficiently. About halfway through, Mulally stopped the meeting. “We’re going to lose billions of dollars this year,” he said. “Isn’t there anything that’s not going well here?” Still, no one spoke.
As the second BPR approached, Mark Fields, in charge of Ford Americas, faced a dilemma: Production had already begun on the new Ford Edge, but a grinding noise coming from the suspension had been reported. Deciding to take Mulally at his word that honesty would not be punished, he reported the issue. The silence in the room was deafening. Fields remembers his colleagues had begun to look at him with pity when suddenly, Mulally started clapping. “Mark, that’s great visibility!” he said. “Who can help Mark with this?”
In the months following this revelatory meeting, Mulally taught the different branches of Ford Automotive to rethink their individualized approach into a “One Team” perspective, working together for the success of everyone. He encouraged his team leaders to share information, to problem-solve together, to extend the practice of honesty without penalty to staff from all levels, and to value the input they received. When asked why he felt this extreme brand of community and communication was so important, he stated simply, “We finally have it all out in the open. Now we can start fixing it.”
It’s easy, in times like this, to become overwhelmed by uncertainty and paralyzed by fear. None of us has faced anything like this, before. But if we take Mulally’s leadership lesson to heart, we know we can work together to successfully lead our teams through this unprecedented time—provided we understand what we’re facing. Mulally often said, “It’s important to seek understanding before seeking to be understood,” and that simple philosophy helped him lead Ford Automotive from bankruptcy to profit. Whatever challenges we face as our country struggles to reopen, a team approach to problem solving will get us further than going it alone. Ask lots of questions, both of your employees and of other leaders you respect and offer your expertise as we all work together to navigate this time successfully.
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Alan Mulally knew that for problems to be solved, they first had to be discovered and understood. What are some problems you anticipate as our country reopens its economy? How do you think we can create opportunities for our teams to alert us to the issues they’re facing? Let’s share ideas in the comments, below, as we all work together during this time.
In a March 23rd article titled “COVID-19: What Employees Need From Leaders Right Now,” Gallup identified four universal needs followers have of leaders during times of crisis:
Taking office in the midst of war, Winston Churchill stepped into office boldly, reaching out to the public by addressing their core needs and thereby winning their love and support.
With war already taking its toll, people were living in fear, yet Churchill did not withhold information from them. In his frequent addresses, he would state—as clearly as he could—what was happening. In May 1940, he delivered a radio speech to the nation saying, “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.” In a War Room speech from September 11, 1940, during the worst of the night bombings, Churchill told his people, “Behind these clusters of ships or barges, there stand very large numbers of German troops, awaiting the order to go on board and set out on their…voyage across the seas…No one should blind himself to the fact that a heavy, full-scale invasion of the island is being prepared...” While some cautioned this extreme brand of candor would lead to national panic, Churchill believed his people deserved to know the facts. Their response was to rally behind him, and to trust what he said.
While Churchill did not sugarcoat the reality his country was facing, he offered rational, realistic cause for hope—always stating his belief his people could overcome anything they faced. His September War Room address to the nation ended with these words:
Little does [Hitler] know the spirit of the British nation… What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts...which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed. He has lighted a fire which will burn with a steady and consuming flame until the last vestiges of Nazi tyranny have been burnt out of Europe… It is a message of good cheer to our fighting Forces… they have behind them a people who will not flinch… but we will draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival, and of a victory won not only for ourselves, but for all.
In 1941, Churchill was on his way to Bristol University to award honorary degrees when the city was bombed. Understanding the importance of stability during uncertain times, Churchill decided to go ahead with the ceremony. Professors stood with him on the dais, their clothing beneath their robes wet and sooty from fighting fires throughout the night. People arrived in the audience, filthy from pulling bodies from the rubble, yet all desperately seeking that moment of good in the destruction that surrounded them, and grateful to be a part of something normal.
At the end of the awards ceremony, Churchill gave an impromptu speech, praising the people of Bristol, saying, “Many of those here today have been all night at their posts, and have been under the fire of the enemy… That you should gather in this way is a mark of fortitude… of courage… I see the spirit of an unconquerable people.” Churchill spent an hour driving around the city, documenting the worst of the damage, before boarding his train to return home. Upon boarding, his aides reported he spent long minutes weeping over the devastation he’d witnessed, then immediately began setting plans in motion to ensure the people of Bristol had extra allotments of food provisions to help them through their time of emergency.
We can learn a lot from Churchill. What we’re facing now is unprecedented, and those we lead are looking to us for answers. We’re up for the challenge, though, and we’ll come through this time stronger, more resilient, and confident in our ability to lead our people through anything.
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Are you wondering how to meet your employees’ core needs during this time of crisis? Let’s open a discussion, sharing with one another our struggles and triumphs during this time. Post your question or comment below.
Much has been said of the direct correlation between understanding and achievement. “Whatever you cannot understand, you cannot possess,” wrote Goethe, the German statesman and author. Does that same thinking apply to leadership? In a word – yes.
Hired by Google in 2001, Sheryl Sandberg grew its sales and advertising department from four employees to over 4,000—about one-quarter of Google’s total. Her team has brought in more than half the company’s revenue. Since taking her position as Facebook’s COO in 2008, she has meteorically increased its value, moving it from a $56 million loss to a total market value of over $425 billion. Her success, importantly, isn’t limited to financial gain. Under her leadership, Facebook has been ranked in Glassdoor’s annual “Best Places to Work” for a decade, spending three of those years in the coveted first place position. When asked what made Facebook so successful, both as a company and as a place to work, Sandberg responded, “We believe that skills are more important than experience.”
Citing 2001’s leadership manifesto, Now, Discover Your Strengths, as the primary inspiration behind her leadership approach, Sandberg explained, “At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people, rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those natural strengths every day.” So how does Sandberg understand her people well enough to find their natural strengths? She’s developed two very important habits:
While these habits are not groundbreaking, Sandberg argues they are too little used. Today’s employees want the opportunity to do meaningful work, and they aren’t going to put their trust in a leader who prioritizes what they get wrong over what they get right. “People don’t have to be good at everything,” she says. “Most aren’t, and the best workplaces acknowledge that... Some companies spend an awful lot of time…telling people what they’re not good at, and then trying to make them better. We try to shift the focus onto strengths.”
Are you wondering how to uncover the natural strengths of those you lead? Do you want to earn the trust of your teammates by recognizing their strengths and helping them succeed? Take your team out of the office and give them time to learn from strong role models. You bring the team members, and we’ll create an immersive learning program, linking timeless historical examples with your individual workplace issues.
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Sheryl Sandberg understands that recognizing the strengths in others is essential to effective leadership. Do you believe your organization succeeds in this area? What are some things you’d like to change, or ideas you’d like to try? Please share your ideas and comments, below.
Trust is a slippery concept, difficult to earn, and maddeningly elusive to define. But speaking plainly, nothing much happens without it. From leading soldiers into war to leading a team in your enterprise, people won’t follow a leader they don’t trust—at least, not for long. Why do some leaders inspire such trust that people follow them through good times and bad, while others can’t even inspire a baseline of trust required to prevent constant turnover? The answer, according to social psychologists, is multifaceted—and confusing. Trust is both an emotional and a logical act, consisting of conscious and unconscious observations and our reaction to this data. The good news? Science believes many of these data points are quantifiable—and learnable—for leaders who want to improve their effectiveness.
One key element in building trust is predictability. Where can today’s leaders look for a good role model on leadership predictability? The answer might surprise you.
Known as one of the most successful military leaders in U.S. history, Ulysses S. Grant is best known as the general who led the Union to victory over the Confederate States during the Civil War. Nicknamed “Unconditional Surrender Grant,” he was the only general during the Civil War who received the surrender of three Confederate armies. Quiet, famously devoid of charisma, small-framed to the point of being slight, and often rumpled, Grant nonetheless inspired thousands of men to fight impossible odds.
What Grant lacked in charisma, he made up for in steadiness. “His face has three expressions,” Theodore Lyman, an officer who served under Grant observed, “deep thought, extreme determination and great calmness.” Known to his men as an unflappable force, Grant remained calm, even in the face of defeat. He fought under the same deprivations and hardships as those he commanded, endured the same risks he asked them to undertake, and never deviated from the established plan of forward momentum, no matter what happened. Colonel James Rusling described Grant as a man who would “dare great things, hold on mightily, and toil terribly” to see a plan to fruition.
All of that could have changed on May 5, 1864, when Grant’s Fifth Corps encountered Lee’s Confederate troops on the Orange Turnpike in Virginia, and the Battle of the Wilderness began in earnest. Artillery and gunfire ignited the dry underbrush, and soldiers were soon firing blindly into the fire and smoke. Wounded soldiers, unable to escape the forest, died in the flames. Throughout the day, Grant kept his calm as his corps commanders sent conflicting reports about General Lee’s movements and news of their mounting and horrific losses. When the day’s battle was finally over, Grant received the casualty report. He had lost more than 17,500 men. Quietly, he retired to the privacy of his tent, then wept in earnest. Hearing their general grieve, some of his closest staff wondered what the next day would bring. But Grant was up before dawn, calm, steady and determined as ever to stay the course. “If you see the President,” he told a reporter during battle that next afternoon, “tell him from me that whatever happens, there will be no turning back.”
Grant’s consistent leadership, even in the face of an increasingly inconsistent environment, endeared him to his soldiers. His steady, unwavering approach provided the predictable leadership necessary to engender trust among his men. No matter what happened, his troops knew he’d stay the course. We, as leaders, can learn a lot from Grant’s example. Today’s employees want leaders they can count on. Providing consistent, predictable leadership—in a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic and dishonest—creates a safe space where employees can thrive and work to their highest potential. Consistency is key!
Are you wondering how to engender trust from those you lead? Let us help. Our unique approach to leadership training harnesses the power of experiential learning to teach time-proven leadership methods that get results. Let us share more leadership lessons from Ulysses S. Grant and other trustworthy leaders in a workshop or staff retreat. You bring the team members, and we’ll create an immersive learning program, linking timeless historical examples with your individual workplace issues.
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Ulysses S. Grant understood that engendering trust is essential to effective leadership. Do you believe your organization is effective in this area? What are some things you’d like to change, or ideas you’d like to try? Please share your ideas and comments, below.
How would you rate your current or former bosses in terms of effectiveness and warmth? In a Zenger Folkman study of 51,836 leaders, only 27 received simultaneous high scores for effectiveness and low scores for warmth. Said another way, an unapproachable leader has only about a 1 in 2,000 chance of being effective. But warmth, considered a soft managerial skill, can often feel like a moving target. How do we lead with warmth? The answer is simpler than you might think.
Originally published in 1936, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People debuted into a fragile and shell-shocked American public. With the Great Depression lingering and unemployment at nearly 17%, people were desperate for the simple, actionable steps the book provided. Advice like, “don’t criticize, condemn, or complain,” and “become genuinely interested in others,” met with overwhelming public interest. Critics, however, reacted differently. The New York Times warned readers that Carnegie’s advice was “extremely simple,” and “should not overrule the foundation of actual knowledge.” Sinclair Lewis denounced Carnegie’s method as simply “teaching people to smile and bob and pretend to be interested.” It was Carnegie’s simplest actionable step, however, that generated the greatest scorn from critics. The advice? “Smile.”
Interestingly, a growing body of recent research suggests that smiling is one of the easiest and most effective ways for leaders to convey warmth. This nonverbal form of communication shows our teams that we’re pleased to be in their company, that we’re open and receptive to their ideas, and most importantly, that we can be trusted. Princeton social psychologist Alex Todorov calls this “spontaneous trait inference” and argues that human beings are remarkably receptive to—and influenced by—facial expression.
In management settings, this is incredibly important. By harnessing the simple human predisposition to equate a smiling face with warmth, and warmth with trustworthiness, we use a powerful tool in our leadership arsenal. Employees who trust their leaders not only comply with directives, but are more likely to adopt the values and mission of the organization, and to be team players. There’s only one catch, Carnegie warns: your smile must be sincere.
To project warmth, you must feel warmth. No one responds well to phony. Carnegie’s advice? Stay true to your personality. For some leaders, that means smiling broadly and increasing the volume and dynamic range of your voice to convey excitement and happiness. For some, it means a smile and a nod to show appreciation for a job well done, and for others, it could be as simple as making eye contact and smiling as you say, “good morning.” There is no right or wrong way to smile at your team, as long as your smile is real. The important thing is simply to do it.
Dale Carnegie understood the power of a sincere smile. When our nation was consumed with worry over finances and the political climate, he advised his students to take the time to simply make eye contact and smile at someone else. In today’s changing business environment, human connection is more important—and more lacking—than ever. As more research comes to light, confirming the profound effect the human smile has in leadership situations, it can be tempting to overcomplicate the idea—to make rules and scenarios to get it right. But, Dale Carnegie knew a simple approach was best when he said, “A sincere smile changes everything.”
Are you wondering how to lead with more warmth? Are you searching for ways to increase the trust factor among your teammates? Let us help. Our unique approach to leadership training harnesses the power of experiential learning to teach time-proven leadership methods that get results. Give us a call or check our Website for programs that fit your current training needs.
This month we celebrate the birthday of Dale Carnegie, born November 24, 1888, in Maryville, Missouri. The man who would help millions build confidence was born into poverty in rural Missouri. He left farming to attend college, trying his hand as a traveling salesman in Nebraska and an actor in New York City before teaching public speaking at a YMCA. His teaching techniques led him to write about public speaking and go on lecture tours. With the publication of his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), he gained an international following that continues to this day. His popular Dale Carnegie Training courses have been run for over a century, with their focus on helping individuals and businesses improve their performance.
Three Communication Lessons from Kennedy
Today’s employees want authentic and accessible communication from their leaders. President Kennedy understood that to communicate effectively, he had to understand his audience, care about what they wanted, and speak with candor and transparency – a powerful example as relevant today as when he led our great nation.
Are you wondering how to communicate more effectively with those you lead? Would you like your managers to practice and refine their communication skills to improve employee morale and productivity? Let us help! Our unique approach to leadership training harnesses the power of experiential learning to teach time-proven leadership methods that get results. Let us share more leadership lessons from President Kennedy and other leaders who mastered the power of words. Bring your team to a workshop or staff retreat, and we’ll create an immersive learning program, linking timeless historical examples with your workplace issues.
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President Kennedy understood that effective communication is essential to effective leadership. Do you believe your organization has open lines of communication? What are some things you’d like to change, or ideas you’d like to try? Please share your ideas and comments, below.
Organizations of all sizes lament the lack of cooperation across functional lines and they search for ways to encourage innovation, but how can one build a culture that encourages innovation and information sharing?
Turning to history, we discovered a model of peer-to-peer learning in the 20th century activist, Jane Addams. This Nobel Prize winner was a social reformer, the “Mother of Social Work," and co-founder of Hull House, America’s most famous settlement house. Hull House, situated in an impoverished area of Chicago, was surrounded by a community made up of recent European immigrants. To provide social and educational opportunities to these working class people, Addams set up classes in literature, history, art and domestic activities, such as sewing and weaving, as well as daycare and public playgrounds for families to congregate.
Hull House became enormously successful, and its classes were overflowing—providing education to grateful people who would have otherwise gone without—but Addams wanted even more. “Many of the difficulties in philanthropy come from an unconscious division of the world into the philanthropists and those to be helped,” she said in an 1899 Atlantic Monthly article. “It is an assumption of two classes, and against this class assumption our democratic training revolts as soon as we begin to act upon it.” In short: everyone has something valuable to offer.
Hull House’s model of education became circular—rather than top-down—with educators coming in to offer lectures and classes in their areas of expertise, and in return, learning about the crafts and trades practiced by the immigrants. When asked to describe this process, Addams said:
But, does Addams’s leadership approach apply to today’s business world? Yes, says global professional services giant Accenture. “To stay competitive, enterprises must focus on developing a culture of continuous learning. Peer-to-peer learning is a key component of an enterprise’s journey toward becoming a more agile and collaborative organization.”
Addams believed that everyone had knowledge to share, and designed the educational structure of Hull House to facilitate this end. Today’s business world, with its complex and diverse workforce, includes the largest range of generations working at the same time. Creating opportunities for our employees to share information and learn from one another isn’t just a good idea—it’s good business!
"America's future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live." - Jane Addams
Are you wondering how to create opportunities for peer-to-peer learning within your organization? Let us help! Our unique approach to leadership training harnesses the power of experiential learning to teach time-proven leadership methods that get results. Let us share more leadership lessons from historic role models for your next workshop or staff retreat.
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Jane Addams understood that everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn. How have you encouraged those you lead to learn from each other? What are some ideas you’d like to try? Please share your ideas and comments, below.
What does it take to engage and motivate employees in today’s high pressure workplace? “Employee expectations are changing,” says Human Resource specialist, Carrie Patrick, and leaders need to take note.
Recent studies show the root cause is simple—our employees don’t feel heard.
What can we, as leaders, do to remedy this? A glimpse through very recent history provides insight. Most remember Nelson Mandela as a South African revolutionary who not only became South Africa’s first democratically elected President, but also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to abolish the apartheid regime and establish a peaceful and nonracial democracy in his country. To the world, he was an incredible dignitary, someone who spoke across the lines that divide people from one another. But to those who worked with him directly, he was someone who listened.
Richard Stengel, who collaborated with Mandela on his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, tells this story:
Mandela showed this same courtesy to everyone he worked with, including those who opposed him. During negotiations, he would sit quietly until all participants had the opportunity to state their opinions and voice their arguments. Then, before sharing his own thoughts, he would go around the room, making sure he correctly understood everyone’s point of view.
Mandela often said, “People respond in accordance to how you treat them,” and he felt everyone deserved to be heard. While Mandela was President, a young writer named Zakes Mda began publishing articles about the financial changes happening under Mandela’s leadership. About a year into the Presidency, Mda sent a long letter directly to Mandela. “To his credit,” Mda says, “he phoned me within a week and arranged a meeting between me and three of his senior cabinet ministers… That Mandela listened attentively to the complaints of an ordinary citizen, and took me seriously enough to convene such a meeting, was extraordinary.”
The workplace, as we know it, is changing. As today’s employees increasingly search for purpose and inclusiveness, we must shift our leadership approach accordingly. Nelson Mandela understood that to work with someone successfully, to motivate them in any way, he first had to hear them. He cultivated a practice of listening to what others had to say, and in return, they listened to him, too. Sometimes, it really is that simple.
Are you wondering how to inspire trust from your employees? Want to help your leadership team lead in a more respectful, inclusive manner? Let us help! Our unique approach to leadership training harnesses the power of experiential learning to teach time-proven leadership methods that get results. Let us share more leadership lessons from Nelson Mandela in a workshop or staff retreat. You bring the team members, and we’ll create an immersive learning program, linking timeless historical examples with your individual workplace issues.
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Nelson Mandela understood that to lead effectively, he must first respect and understand the person in front of him. What are some ways we could better listen to those we lead? How could our improved understanding lead to better business? What changes would you like to see in your department? Please share your stories and ideas in the comments section, below.
In a recent survey by Georgetown University of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, participants listed respect as the most important leadership behavior. And yet, according to a study by Harvard Business Review, half of employees don’t feel their management respects them. Marquette University professor, Dr. Kristie Rogers, states that leaders have an incomplete understanding of what constitutes workplace respect — so even well-meaning efforts to provide a respectful workplace may fall short.”
How should we, as leaders, show respect? Rogers says the first step is realizing employees value and need two distinct types of respect — owed respect, which is provided equally across a group and meets the universal need to feel included, and earned respect, which recognizes individual qualities or behaviors and meets the need to be valued for doing good work. Rogers says the way managers show respect affects how their employees treat one another, their customers, and even other members of the community
Where can we find a real-world example of successful respectful leadership? The answer might surprise you. Nicknamed “Silent Cal” for his quiet, often taciturn nature, Calvin Coolidge was known as a frugal, pro-business conservative who favored tax cuts and limited government spending. What many don’t realize is he was fiercely committed to advancing African American civil rights, and often publicly expressed his respect for these citizens, providing a model for us today.
In his first State of the Union Address on December 6, 1923, Coolidge said, “Numbered among our population are some 12 million colored people. Under our Constitution, their rights are just as sacred as those of any other citizen. It is both a public and a private duty to protect those rights.” This was the first such address to be shared with the nation via radio broadcast, and it made a dramatic statement: We are all part of one whole. It wasn’t a popular sentiment. Coolidge lost every Southern state in the 1924 election and came under fierce criticism for this inclusive mindset. Even so, his position didn’t waver. On July 5, 1926, in a speech to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he said, “About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful...If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final.” Coolidge understood that African Americans could never enjoy true civil liberty until the prevailing divisive mindset was abolished, and he set about dismantling it by publicly respecting this group of people as an integral, and equal, part of our nation’s whole.
But that’s only half the story. Coolidge also understood the importance of recognizing specific contributions of African Americans. At a 1924 commencement speech for Howard University, a historically black college founded in 1867, Coolidge said, “The colored people have repeatedly proved their devotion to the high ideals of our country. The propaganda of prejudice and hatred which sought to keep the colored men from supporting the national cause [of World War I] completely failed.” And, when a white Army Sergeant wrote to him in protest when Republicans nominated a black man as their candidate in New York’s 21st Congressional District, Coolidge responded,
"During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. They took their places wherever assigned in defense of the nation of which they are just as truly citizens as are any others. The suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population...could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party.”
Through his public and honest praise, Coolidge communicated the African American citizens' innate, inalienable inclusion in the nation’s whole and also applauded their valuable contributions. Coolidge's example speaks to a larger truth: People are worthy of respect. As leaders, showing this respect openly starts with us.
Are you wondering what you can do to create a more respectful workplace? Want some real-world examples of the transformative changes a respectful leader can bring? Let us help. Our unique approach to leadership training harnesses the power of experiential learning and historic role models to teach proven leadership methods. You bring the team members, and we’ll create an immersive learning program.
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Calvin Coolidge understood that respectful leaders showed both owed and earned respect. What are some ways we can show respect to the people we lead? How could a respectful workplace lead to better business? What changes would you like to see in your group? Please share your stories and ideas in the comments section, below!