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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Use This Approach to Gain Respect and the Influence You Need

Of course, leadership is not about being liked. But it sucks to go to work every day when you know your team would rather be working for someone else. Plus, if your team doesn’t respect you, you’re not going to have the influence you need to make an impact. So, how do you gain respect, when your team’s just not there?

This challenging and poignant question came up in one of our “Asking For a Friend” segments following a recent keynote.

“What do I do if I’m sure my team doesn’t like me?  How do I gain their respect?”

My first response was, “It depends. Why don’t they like you?”

I’m thinking about the handful of managers I had over the years who were the epitome of a jerk at work — the bullies who crush courage with their toxic leadership behaviors or who seem to be lacking a moral compass.

Those folks had deeper issues going on and probably needed a therapist more than an executive coach.

This article is not for them, but for you, the well-intentioned, human-centered leader looking to gain the respect of their team.

3 Reasons Your Team Might Not Like You (and How to Gain Respect)

Here are three common reasons you could be losing influence (and what to do to regain respect and the impact you need).

1. Your behavior is sabotaging your leadership influence.

We all have blind spots and opportunities to improve our leadership and gain respect. If you sense your team doesn’t like you, start by talking with each member of the team one-on-one.

In Courageous Cultures, I share a story of a well-intentioned manager who was coming across as a bully. Thankfully, one of his team members had the guts to confront him.

What he did next made all the difference. He asked others about their perceptions, and as it turned out, his reputation was consistent.

He learned to change his tone of voice. To ask more questions. And, to enter the room more gently. Those slight modifications to his behavior, coupled with the fact that he was asking for feedback with a real intent to listen, made all the difference. He gained the respect of his team.

In our leadership development programs, we often encourage managers to complete a Do It Yourself 360 (Listening Tour), to gather this feedback. Identifying one or two areas where you really want feedback, and then going out and asking people a few questions, and summarizing the themes.

Managers tell us that this simple process is a great way to get candid feedback to improve their leadership, and it also reinforces that they really are open to change, so it lays the groundwork for psychological safety. and helps them to gain respect. They are easier to approach the next time.

2. They underestimate the value you bring.

There was one time in my career where I was absolutely certain that my team didn’t like me.

I had been promoted to lead a 2200 person retail sales team at Verizon. The problem was I had zero sales experience. Thirteen out of fourteen of my direct reports were men. And, fourteen out of fourteen had been in retail sales for their entire careers.Leadership Training Program

The Associate Director of Operations on the team, “Greg” was an absolute rock star and was the obvious successor for that role. No one on the team could believe that this “HR chick” had been “given” this job. “It was probably a diversity move.”

You can read more about how this story ends in Chapter 6 of Courageous Cultures (you can download the first few chapters of Courageous Cultures for free here).

But here’s the long story short. I showed up in the stores on Sundays (and other times no one wanted to be at work) and rolled up my sleeves to really get to know the team and their approach.

I asked lots of questions and really listened. And then, I showed up with the confidence to establish a strong vision and leverage the skills that had helped me earn that role—rallying a large team to execute a turnaround plan on their most important priorities.

The team won the President’s Award for customer growth that year. One important way to gain the respect of your team is to help them win.

3. You’re holding them accountable for the very first time (stay the course!)

Of course, it can be quite a shocker to an underperforming team, when a new manager comes in and holds them accountable for the very first time. 

If you sense that your team doesn’t like you because you’ve raised the bar, or are holding them accountable to meet expectations, check your style. Make sure you’re focused on both results AND relationships as you’re giving performance feedback) and then stay the course.

It might be rocky for a minute, but most people really do want to work on a winning team. You might lose a few slackers who will continue to think you’re a jerk, but you will build respect with the rest of your team, not to mention getting the results you need.

Leadership is not about being liked. But, respect matters, if you want to have influence and impact. It starts with understanding where the breakdown is happening and then building a deliberate plan to gain their respect.

Your turn.

What would you add?

What’s your best advice to gain respect when your team doesn’t like you?

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Austin Senecal

    Hi Karin, I relate to #3. It’s called leadership and not likership for a reason and sometimes it’s difficult to hold the course when our egos don’t like the fact we aren’t liked but it’s our job to hold people accountable. That doesn’t mean you can’t treat them with dignity and respect though.

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Austin. I so appreciate you expanding the conversation!


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

Be More Daring


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Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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