A few years ago I was having a conversation with the daughter of some very good friends. While our exchange was trivial and I don’t remember what we were talking about, I do know that it subtly but importantly altered my outlook on life.
There was a moment during our discussion when I said; “Well, respect has to be earned.” It was probably a slightly lazy response; a phrase I had heard often enough in my own youth from parents expecting high standards.
Her response was swift. “No,” she shot back, “disrespect has to be earned.”
I saw and understood her point immediately. She was quite right and I remain conscious of the way it changed my behaviour even today—I have no right to expect people to have prove themselves to me in some way. This approach of positive engagement is essential in our business; although our aim is to reveal the best in candidates, sometimes they can still surprise us with talents or stories we’d never imagined!
Of course, in a few cases that respect may diminish over time, but I’ve found life’s exchanges are richer when they are approached from this perspective. Including conversations with 14 year-olds.