Human Beings are complicated personalities. We all have universal needs during our ups and downs. But, it is only during our downturns, we universally test the ones that really matter to us. The ones that define us.
Whether it’s a business or personal relationship, when I first encounter someone, I always ask them one question. What is one trait that you value the most in any relationship?
Most go for a safe answer. But, what I’m really asking for is a foundational characteristic. A characteristic that ties everything together. A characteristic that can only be tested during our most trying moments.
In July, I turn 32. That means by then I would have spent the last 16 years of my life as an adolescent, and then the next 16 years in the primitive world of business. To me, it’s simple. It’s loyalty.
Loyalty is the foundation upon which relationships are built and it’s what tests relationships when the tough times of life arrive at your doorstep.
Questions that revolve around loyalty are among the most important of all in striving to understand a person’s true character. But it’s difficult to make the right judgment. Sometimes your intuition, no matter how formidable it has been in the past, just lets you down. And when the loyalty of someone is really tested, you then realize how little of this vital characteristic most people actually have.
There’s a lot to be said for loyalty. It should be at the core of every relationship as it’s a trait that I believe is the measure of true inner success and is sadly lacking in the world today. Greed. Selfishness. Vanity. Betrayal. Evil. Power. All get in the way of it.
True loyalty isn’t blind obedience. No-one anyway should want to be around a ‘yes sir, no sir’ lapdog who doesn’t question your decisions. To me, true loyalty is making heartfelt commitments and acting in the best interests of others. It’s staying faithful in the face of adversity and misfortune. It’s being there not when it’s convenient for you, but being their for someone when they need you. It’s sacrifice and I guess that’s when you really do find who your true soul-mates are.
Fortunes can be made and lost. But, moral aptitude is a barometer that can only get tested during the toughest of times.
Have you ever heard the old expression about “dancing with the one that brung you?” It means you stick with the partner with whom you arrived at a dance rather than make eyes back at someone who looked at you from across the room.
While it may be tempting to take up that new proposition your moral code and sense of loyalty should tell you to stay true to the partner who got you in the door and made things happen. You don’t stab the person in the back who got you where you are.
True loyalty isn’t just putting in years of service. Anyone can be a clock puncher showing up for eight hours a day and dutifully going through the motions, performing adequately and not making any waves. Sure, that’s loyalty of a sort but it’s “loyalty lite.”
True loyalty is the person who demonstrably shares your principles, who will watch your back under any circumstances, and goes the extra mile. It’s the person who is not only with you for the long haul but is also productive and motivated and therefore of enormous value. But, to reiterate, “long-term” in and of itself doesn’t necessarily translate into loyalty. Loyalty comes with greater engagement in all aspects with a moral compass.
True loyalty isn’t “going along to get along.” True loyalty is playing devil’s advocate. It’s about asking the right questions to watch one’s back.
True loyalty is so important that it motivated movie mogul Sam Goldwyn to go as far as to say, “I’ll take 50 percent efficiency to get 100 percent loyalty.”
Of course, loyalty is a two-way street. Employers have the responsibility to perform in ways that foster loyalty.
That means creating a working environment in which employees feel they are appreciated for the contributions they make. You want them to relish the prospect of walking into the office in the morning ready for an exhilarating work day; a day in which they will be inspired to achieve great things; a day in which their inner being shines with a sense of purpose.
Of course, the work environment today has totally changed from your father’s day, never mind your grandfather’s day. No longer do people remain with a company for their entire career. Statistics show that people today are likely to have at least eight different jobs in their lifetime and, quite possibly, several different careers. And some of those careers might not even exist right now. That’s the rapid pace of change we are experiencing.
But the fundamentals of loyalty remain, nevertheless. It’s a foundational characteristic that is rare.
The right kind of people crave the ability to have a say in the corporate vision; they want to participate and be part of something awesome, something with a greater purpose than what they could accomplish by themselves. It’s not all about more money, bonuses, and pension plans, either. They want to come to work early and stay at work late because they have a shared passion, vision, and share your hope.
The right kind of employers and corporate leaders need to make it a priority to nurture the loyalty of their staff, to be sensitive to acknowledging the performance of their rock stars.
The right kind of boss should have an open door policy where members of the team can feel comfortable expressing their opinion, even if it is likely to be unpopular. Trust is essential. Many of the best new ideas come from frontline employees. So listen to them.
Show them how much their talent is valued and make sure that their jobs are fulfilling so they can enjoy that sense of purpose.
As a great novelist once said, “We all live inside bodies that will deteriorate. But when you look at human beings, they’re capable of very decent things: love and loyalty. When time is running out, we forget about possessions or status. We want to put things right if they’ve done wrong.”