A long time ago, probably before many of you remember, there was this thing called… Loyalty.
Back “in the old days”, you graduated from high school, tech school, or college and got a job. Most of the time, you stayed with that job for the duration of your career. Oh, maybe you got a promotion, or you moved to another department, but for the most part, you stayed with that company until you retired. It was called company loyalty. On that wonderful day, you got a gold watch and a pension – and you retired!
Over time things started to change.
Organizations focused on profits and the words “lean and mean” were frequently heard. Organizational structures flattened and managers who once had 10 direct reports now had 100. There were fewer opportunities for promotion. Pensions got smaller and smaller until they simply went away. Just when we thought that things couldn’t get any worse, companies started focusing on doing more with less and suddenly people everywhere were being downsized, outsourced, and laid off. Framed negatively, people were heard to say – “Well, if they are not loyal to me, why should I be loyal to them?” Framed more positively, people realized that if they were to survive, to support their families, and to have any career or retirement at all, they would have to manage their own career and look out for themselves. Loyalty became a thing of the past.
Or did it? Certainly, it is unusual to meet someone who stays at the same job forever (unless, of course, they own the company!). I have learned that loyalty is not gone; it just looks a little different.
Over the past couple of decades, I have also noticed that there has been a change in leadership style. Many leaders are learning to be authentic and lead from the heart. When I ask people about the best leader they have ever worked for, I hear things like – she cared about me, he was kind, she supported my development, he listened well, she was firm and fair. As leaders become more heart-based, I have noticed a new kind of loyalty. You will notice it if you pay attention. An employee who may not have loyalty to a company now has loyalty to a leader, or a team, or a project.
Several years ago, my husband Ken was a senior software engineer for a small company called Memorex Telex. In my opinion, he was hugely talented and grossly underpaid. One day, I suggested to him that if he were to find a new job with one of the larger IT firms in the area, he would probably make more money. He thought about it for a minute and then he said – “Honey, I know you are probably right, but I love my manager. What if I move to a new job and the manager is a jerk? It wouldn’t be worth the additional money to me. Besides… we are in the middle of a big project, and Steve needs me.” His concern was not about the company, but he felt loyalty to his manager and to his team.
I tell my clients often that if you love your employees, they will love you back. When they do, they will walk on hot coals to give you what you need. Once you learn to lead from your heart, you will build the relationships with your team that will generate a different kind of loyalty.