A friend of mine has been having a rather torrid time at work recently. She has a new line manager. Unfortunately for her, it transpires that this particular individual is not the best when it comes to managing people. Quite an issue, when they have responsibility for a team of twenty people.

Sadly, the situation she is experiencing is far from unusual. Most of us, if we are honest, fall into line management rather than being formally trained for the role. If we are lucky, we might have access to some kind of management training and development programme. More likely, we have to pick up what we can on the job and hope for the best.

Keeping it simple

To my mind, though, being a great line manager doesn’t need to be difficult. I have an exercise that I run through with my delegates during a particular management training module that we run as part of the Benefex University. In that exercise, I get them to brainstorm and come up with a list of things that, as employees, we all need from our managers. Time. Support. Development. And so on. We then spend the rest of the module looking at tools which will help us to better provide these things.

There is one thing, though, which I believe needs to come before everything else. It is the thing which is most obviously missing from the relationship my friend has with her new line manager. And that thing is: respect.

Second nature

Lots of management skills have to be learnt. It takes time to understand how to coach an employee, how to conduct a productive one to one meeting, how to write and score an appraisal. Respect, though… that’s something which shouldn’t need us to even think about it. It should be second nature to us all, whether in our personal or our working lives. And yet, I hear examples every single day where that is fundamentally missing from management relationships.

Terminology does not help the situation. Historically, it was the done thing to refer to reporting employees in derogatory terms: ‘subordinate’ being one of my most hated phrases, but yet one which was in common parlance at one time.

People deserve respect

So, let’s get one thing clear. As a line manager, your employees are in no way inferior to you. They are not ‘subordinates’. They are not ‘under you’. They are people, just like you are. They make up your team. They are going to play a vital part in helping you achieve your team’s objectives. And, as such, they deserve respect.

Respect is where everything starts, and where everything can end. It should form the basic foundation of your management approach. Establish a mutual relationship of respect, and everything else will follow. Your team will be receptive to what you have to say. They will want to learn. They will want to help you to succeed. Ultimately, if we want to deliver, then we have to start with respect.

My challenge to you

And so, my challenge to all of you is to look at how you treat your team members. Look at how you speak to them; how you email them; how you interact with them. You are, of course, the manager. That means, a lot of the time, it will be you who makes the final decision. You who sets the direction of travel. And you who calls out performance, both good and bad.

But that doesn’t mean you should forget the fundamental requirement to show respect. I have an adage which has followed me right through my years of management: to treat others as I would like to be treated. Next time you are in a difficult situation, take a few moments to remember that. A great management relationship starts from a mutual position of respect. And once you have that, everything else will start to follow.