Respect often means different things to different individuals and cultures. For example, many cultures have a tradition of displaying respect for their elders but may have different views when defining values and ethics. Yet some form of respect is apparent in any society. It is built around values based on what you or your culture holds in high regard and its degree of importance.

Though the definition of respect may vary, it usually centers on character, experience, and ethics. Learning respect often starts at an early age and continues to develop over time. Growing up, our parents usually teach us to respect many different people and things. We were taught to respect authority (such as teachers, police, and our elders) by saying “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am.” Many of us also were taught respect for our country or the flag that represents it. Perhaps even an uncle, neighbor, scout leader, or organized team leader contributed to your views on respect.

I developed respect for my professors, coaches, and fellow teammates as a youth and young adult and, still later, people that I worked with at all levels, including supervisors and coworkers. I held them in high esteem because of their knowledge, character, and integrity. Sometimes we respect a position—not necessarily the person holding that position—for example, a high state or federal official or a CEO or CFO.

Respect is often earned over a long period of time, starting with the foundation developed during your youth, then built upon with your personal “body of work.” For example, I became a good listener as well as a contributor, and others recognized that as I grew into leadership positions.

Why is respect important? Because it is an essential qualification for a successful career and is sought after as you progress through various stages of leadership and responsibility. It’s something that you want to earn and something that you want to bestow.

Wherever you are on your career path, it’s never too late to focus on recognizing those who deserve respect and for you to broaden your efforts to earn the respect of business associates. You can start today with very little effort.

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