For success, make loyalty a driving force in your organization, life
I am often asked whether loyalty truly passes the litmus test as the third leg of the stool in defining personal accountability.
Before I attempt to answer that, let’s revisit “The Leadership Pledge” and the five disciplines that define the behavior-driven model in my book. The code of conduct starts with recruiting and hiring people who possess both character and talent and have a high probability of being successful. Then, provide them with the tools to do their job, tell them what we expect, share honest feedback and hold them accountable and responsible for their individual performance.
In past columns we discussed the fifth discipline and the difficulty in measuring personal accountability. In determining trust and commitment as the first two legs of the stool, it was obvious to me that the third one had to focus on our corporate culture. Caring about our employees began with our founder L.M. Berry, and was handed down to each successive generation of leaders. I knew if we were going to preserve this special culture, loyalty had to have its place.
But would it qualify today, when society is losing the sense of loyalty as one of the most important principles in our lives, because we simply have stopped practicing it?
Loyalty is defined much differently today than it was when the journey began, and certainly throughout the 90’s when we introduced The Leadership Pledge within The Berry Co. as our operating philosophy.
Is it the same loyalty that guaranteed lifetime employment that our grandparents and parents believed was their inalienable right? No, it’s different but it’s also the same.
There is strong evidence that mutual disloyalty is not exclusive to employees at work. The lack of loyalty has extended far beyond business impacting family, church, school, community and every aspect of our society.
Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy are professional associates of mine doing research for our next book. In their own soon-to-be-published book, “Why Loyalty Matters”, they suggest, without us noticing it, the world has shifted from a society of many long-term relationships to a society of transactional relationships and ephemeral contacts. This is a natural byproduct of the increasing dynamic economic environment in which we live. We have become more flexible and more mobile workers, which has made businesses more efficient. While this made us wealthier, it also made us less loyal.
Kouzes and Posner define this difference in their book, “The Leadership Challenge,” where they state, “In the end, durable relationships are more likely to produce collaboration than short-term ones.” But, there is an important amendment to this. The reality is that people don’t stay in one job, nor should they. Marriages do fail, and abusive ones should end. Companies do fail, sometimes because of bad management and in others the marketplace isn’t buying what they are selling. The point is, every significant relationship should be treated as if it will last a lifetime, and be important to future mutual success.
I can quote from countless books, periodicals and case studies, but in the end, I believe most of us are loyal to something other than ourselves. But to unlock the power of loyalty we need clarity regarding how “loyal” we really are, and to what we are especially loyal.
As leaders, we must realize loyalty does not emerge from blind obedience. You can’t ask for what you are not willing to give. We’ve got to give employees a sense of purpose, a set of principles, vision and an environment where they can get what they want.
Loyalty doesn’t just happen. Being loyal is a deliberate act. Making loyalty a driving force in your organization and in your life is never easy. We talk intentionally at The University of Dayton about a learning and living community. It only happens when we amplify the quality of our lives through the joy that can only come from having friends, family, co-workers and others who are willing to bond with us. It is the collection of those positive loyal connections that make strong organizations and strong communities.
So yes, as Truth No. 9 says, “It’s OK to be loyal to your customer, your company and your fellow employee.”
Pete Luongo is retired president and CEO of The Berry Co., Leader, Lecturer, Public Speaker and Author of “10 Truths About Leadership … It’s Not Just About Winning”. Reach him at email@example.com.
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