Commanding Respect in a Family Enterprise

Something You Just Can’t Demand 

When starting a blog post I often share the genesis of the idea for it, because I like to share the context of my thinking. 

It also helps give readers an insight into the variety of eclectic thoughts that can be used as jumping off points, almost no matter the subject.

Today’s idea could literally have come from a bunch of different places, but in fact came out of a scouting report about a hockey player who was drafted by my local team a couple of years ago.

I was impressed with some of the qualitative factors the scout highlighted in the young man, who was born in 2000. 

For reference, my children were born in 1999 and 2001, so it was interesting to think of this in terms of a demographic with which I am quite familiar.

 

Your Wish Is My Command 

It’s always interesting to see how young athletes are perceived in society, especially when your children are around the same age.

Here are the words from that report that struck me:

 

         “In other words, he commands respect, 

                     rather than demanding it.”


Who among us parents would not be proud to hear such words said about our own offspring?Wow, I thought, not bad for a young kid. Of course, everything’s relative, because he’s playing at the College level, so the
others whose respect he’s commanding are around the same age, but nonetheless, this is a plus.

And then I began thinking about what makes someone worthy of our respect, and how is it that one “commands it”, rather than “demanding it”?

Let’s go there, since this topic also arises quite often in family situations, especially when it comes to how family members work together over generations.

 

The Problems with Demanding Respect

Here’s a good quote I came across from Dr. Christian Conte:

To demand respect is to tell others, “You will respect me!” or otherwise threaten or punish those who do not act according to your wishes. To command respect is to have others observe and admire your actions of their own volition.”

It’s almost like if you try too hard to force it, it doesn’t work, and might even backfire. There’s also a push/pull aspect to it, like using a rope to push something.

Another great line I found comes from Christine W. Zust, who actually confirms what I wrote above: “The only way to command respect from others is not to demand it.”

Respect in Leading a Family Enterprise

Families who have successfully built an enterprise often begin with one dominant leader who was instrumental in the growth of the family wealth, and who thereby commands the respect of the other members of the family.

Where things typically get trickier is after that first generation, where the respect that’s required for continued success now must be earned by someone new, and where there’s not as much of a “top down” view of things.

My father built his business and naturally had the respect of his offspring. Since he died 12 years ago, I’ve never assumed that my sisters would afford me the same kind of respect they did him.

 

How Is Respect Related to Trust?

I’m not sure why I keep thinking about trust when I’m looking at respect, but they’re surely related.

I flashed back to a blog I wrote way back in 2013 (over 350 blogs ago!) 

“I don’t trust him. I don’t know why, I just don’t”

In that piece, I noted that there are three components of trust, and I think there’s a respect component in all of them.

Trust comes down to reliability, sincerity and competence.

Of course simply being reliable, sincere and competent is not sufficient to command respect, but, I’m pretty sure that if any of them are missing, respect will be a lot harder to command.

 

Democratic Decision Making

Once a family gets past the first generation wealth creator, the decision-making in the family often becomes much more democratic. There are likely going to be sibling and cousin relationships that make the whole respect question much less of a given.

When a leader in that scenario tries too hard to be like the autocrat who came before, they can get into trouble pretty quickly.

Trying to tell people that they need to respect you just doesn’t work.

Remember, you can’t push a rope!