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What Apple and the NFL Teach Us About Respect

I like to think, respect is the gift you receive when people trust you. Do you remember Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy line “I get no respect”? I believe leadership and respect are connected at the hip and if you get “no respect”, the problem is your own.

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I like to think, respect is the gift you receive when people trust you.

Do you remember Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy line “I get no respect”? I believe leadership and respect are connected at the hip and if you get “no respect”, the problem is your own.

This past week we got to see two examples of this relationship with the NFL and Apple. NFL leadership was tested by the growing controversy around its replacement officials and Apple’s leadership was challenged by problems with their Maps application, which affected millions of iOS users.

National Football League Dilemma

Until late last week, regular NFL officials were on strike. Games were being covered by replacement officials, who only had small college and high school game experience. While they were good people, I’m sure, they weren’t experienced in handling the speed and rule complexity of the NFL. As the season entered its third week of games, it was clear the level of respect the players and coaches had for the officials was hitting rock bottom. People didn’t trust the officials to make the right calls. Furthermore, the respect everyone but the owners had for the League’s Commissioner, Roger Goodell, was declining. They didn’t trust his judgment in believing that replacement officials could call the football game correctly.

Then things got worse. Every football fan has seen “the play” several times. Even non-fans have seen it because it was on every network. The play was a game-ending catch in the Packers-Seahawks game that gave a touchdown and the game to the Seahawks. Millions of people watched the replay over and over again and very few thought it was a touchdown.

We know referees make mistakes and that is why the NFL decided to let important plays like this one be reviewed. So the game’s head referee and an NFL expert looked at a video replay of the play from different angles. In this case the replacement head referee didn’t reverse the call. The touchdown and game went into the books as a win for the Seahawks. The NFL then did what they had to do – they backed the officials.

After the League took this position the respect for Goodell and the League really headed south. Why? Because the integrity of the game had been lost. People didn’t trust Goodell’s judgment. It was no coincidence that Goodell made sure the strike got settled before the next week’s games – he could feel the disrespect people had for him and the replacement officials inserted by the League.

Apple and the Map Application Dilemma

At the same time, Apple Computer was wrestling with their own dilemma – the iOS map application loaded on the new iPhone 5 didn’t work right. The Apple Faithfuls were really upset. Many people wrote about how this was CEO Tim Cook’s fault and this kind of mistake would never have happened if the late Steve Jobs was in charge.

However, Tim Cook took the high road. In a letter to customers who purchased the phone he apologized. He wrote, “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”

I think it is fair to say Steve Jobs wouldn’t have apologized. This letter fit Cook’s style and has been perceived by most people as honest. Even though many people are upset and frustrated with the App problem, I think it is likely they trust and, therefore, respect Tim Cook a little more.

So cherish respect and its source, people’s trust – it is the gift that keeps on giving.

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