A friend of mine sat on a park bench next to a woman as they listened to live music at an outdoor concert. They hadn’t known each other long. In fact, this was just their second date after meeting through an online dating site and exchanging messages for around a month.
As the band played in the distance, the man asked a simple question: “Would you mind if I held your hand?”
That might sound a bit old-fashioned, but it speaks to something important about my friend’s mentality toward this woman. He respected her. He wanted to honor her. And he let humility rather than entitlement or presumption drive his behaviors. (Plus, he was little nervous.)
This isn’t a blog about dating, but you might have noticed there’s been a ton of news in the last year about men in positions of power mistreating the women (and some men) who work with or for them. As more and more women rode the wave of courage to speak out, more and more well-known celebrities, politicians, and business leaders were singled out for their misdeeds. The offenses ranged from rude to illegal. Some denied the accusations, while others admitted to them, but one ultimate result was that the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace took center stage in the public discussion.
These misbehaviors are nothing new, unfortunately. People in power have been abusing that power for centuries. Men mistreat other men. Women mistreat other women. Women mistreat men. And men mistreat women. Power corrupts because it breeds a sense of entitlement that too many leaders are unwilling to resist. And since men have traditionally held far more positions of power, they have the longest, ugliest history of leadership misbehaviors and abuse.
Make no mistake: Sexual harassment in the workplace must stop. And I believe it begins by valuing virtues (see Part I of this series) and then adopting the right mentality toward our fellow human beings—one that helps you to value others. That’s why the story of my friend’s date is relevant. He never dated a woman who worked with him, for him, or for whom he worked, but he brought the same mentality about women to those working relationships: He respected them. He wanted to honor them. And he let humility rather than entitlement or presumption drive his behaviors.
That mentality came from the way he was raised – from the advice he was given by his father and other significant men in his life, and, as importantly, from observing those men live out their advice.
So, to the male readers of this blog, I have these questions: What advice have you been given that shapes your mentality about your relationships with women at work? And how are you living out that advice?
Maybe you were given very little advice about relationships with women when you were growing up. Or maybe your role models weren’t good ones. If so, you might need to redirect your course based on better values.
Regardless, here are two pieces of sound advice I’ve learned through the years that jumped to mind for me as helpful reminders on how to value others:
One, if you’re single and you go on a date, treat her the way you want a date to treat your daughter or future daughter. The idea embedded in this advice applies regardless of whether you have, or ever will have, a daughter. It’s simply a good frame of reference for seeing all people as people who truly matter. The same mindset applies to your work relationships. How would you want the people you love the most – your sister, daughter, mother, brother, son, father, or best friend – to be treated by their co-workers? Isn’t that the behavior you should model?
Two, if you’re married, never pass up an opportunity to share examples of how and why you love your spouse. Sharing stories about your most important relationship reinforces the value of that relationship in your heart, while sending a message to others about your priorities. You then become accountable to that message.
I believe our thoughts drive our behaviors. So, establishing the right mental framework to value others is critical to becoming the type of leader we need in this world. If we get that part right, the appropriate behaviors will follow.
Next: In the final part in this series on Linkedin, we explore the value of action by looking at an example of how one leader is proactively communicating to establish a culture that honors women and doesn’t tolerate harassment. Catch up on Part I here.
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