Respect—from within the team and for the team—must be earned. The goal of Respect is contribution—where all team members willingly contribute their best efforts and new ideas. Earning it is the right thing to do for its own sake, but it also has a deep impact on a team’s performance and its ability to gain visibility and resources from others. Your job as a team builder is to take the lead highlighting other people’s skills and articulating how those capabilities can help the team.

The Three Rs of Respect

Three elements of respect are what I call the three Rs: Realize, Recognize, and Require. These actions establish an environment of respect that, when interwoven with the trust you have built and the direction you have set forth, will create a platform for developing empowered teammates. Here’s how I define the three “R’s” of Respect:


Respect comes from two places, from your authority and from your actions; the respect garnered from the latter is more valuable and more sustainable than the former.


Respect derives from results. As a team builder, it’s your job to bring forth and acknowledge the superpowers of each of your teammates.


Respect isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a requirement, and it needs to be shared and reciprocated.

Mutual Respect Creates an Environment of Contribution

Mutual respect is a powerful adhesive when the team comes under pressure. People who feel respected are more confident to express their ideas. They aren’t wasting energy thinking of how not to look stupid; instead they focus on using their abilities to help the team solve the problem. Put simply, respect fuels greater levels of contribution. When you create an environment of mutual respect, you also eliminate the fear of being ignored, humiliated, or victimized.

Mutual respect in team building is not about creating friendships, though don’t be surprised when you develop friendships with people you openly show respect for; it’s about recognizing contributions. Team building is a paradox of sorts, because you need different skill sets to succeed, yet success is found only through unity. The most powerful teams are the ones that have breadth of skill and depth of unity.

A team leader’s responsibility is not only to build trust and set direction, but also to create an environment of mutual respect, so teammates feel free to voice their opinions, debate options, and ultimately take actions without fear of ridicule. This is where the leader’s true power and authority come from.

Learn More About Building Unstoppable Teams
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Unstoppable Teams is the handbook for how to build care-based teams that will push people to achieve more than they ever thought possible.