what can be given, but never taken? what can be found, but never discovered? what can be earned, but never owned? respect.

my first job interview was for an IT company based near Basingstoke. as soon as the interview started i detected something wrong – a distinct lack of respect.  as my interviewer introduced himself and his company it became immediately clear he had little respect for his customers, even less respect for his female and junior employe es, and no respect at all for people of certain races. in addition he showed no respect for how other’s might view the nature of their business – which although entirely legal, raised for me serious ethical questions.

given i knew nothing of this in walking into the interview, but was able to sense it all in under 5 minutes shows just how ingrained and unashamed my interviewer’s lack of respect was. at an appropriate pause i drained my coffee cup, stood up, thanked him for the beverage, and told him that to continue this interview would be waste of my time and his. as i left the room, i vowed never to work for a company that failed to show respect, both for its employees collectively and individually and for its clients.

as an ibmer, i’ve seen many changes within the company over the last 10 years. i’ve seen restructures and policies adjust as the markets shift. i’ve even struggled to remember the names of some of the managers i’ve had for brief spells, but even after a decade of job changes and office moves, one thing has remained constant: ibm’s respect for my and my colleagues, and our respect for our clients.

so it’s great to see culture of respect we deem so precious rewarded. everyday i see that reward in the goodwill our clients extent to us, and in the critical aspects of their enterprises that they entrust to the software we develop.

last monday, i got another reminder of the value of respect, in the form of Barron’s list of the The World’s Most Respected Companies which can be accessed here and read about in Smart Money here. i’m proud to see ibm listed 4th, because i know how hard my colleagues and i work to earn our clients’ trust.

Barron’s list prompts the question: can you actually turn respect for your company into dollars for your enterprise? the answer, of course, is yes. but respect isn’t a corporate asset. it can’t be traded. it can’t be accelerated by aggressive programs. it starts with a belief that – whether it affects your bottom line or not – it’s the right and only way to conduct business. its requires everyone to recognize that long term relationships are built on trust and it needs to weave itself – not just into the external interactions with partners or suppliers – but into the internal interactions between your employees. there’s simply no place within the company for any who lack that respect.

was i rewarded for walking out of that interview? a fellow student, friend of mine, didn’t come away with the same impression as me. he interviewed right after and accepted the job. he phoned them just days before he was due to start, surprised that no-one had given him any details about his first day. he was told that the company had lost the major contract which we’d been told was “in the bag” and therefore had no job to give him(!) clearly, this lack of respect extended to new hires too. while he did find a great job eventually, it wasn’t easy.

my reward? my next interview was at ibm. i could sense the difference immediately, and now, 10 years later, i espouse the value of respect to anyone who’ll listen, here from my desk in hursley.

The World’s Most Respected Companies


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