Three men walk into the CIA headquarters and ask to be hired. A man there replies, “OK, but first we have to test your loyalty.”
He says to the first man: “Here’s a gun to prove your loyalty. We have your wife in the other room. Go shoot her.” So this guy goes into the room, and he comes out fifteen minutes later and says: “I tried, but I just can not do it.”
The next man goes in, and the same thing happens.
Then the last guy goes in, and he sees his wife sitting there. The man who is testing him is waiting to hear gunshots. Then it happens. BANG… BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, followed by tons of crashing and smashing.
The man with the gun comes out, and the man who is testing him says, “Congratulations! You are now a member of the CIA,” to which the man replies: “Yea, great, thanks, but some idiot put blanks in the gun, and I had to kill her with the chair.”
Aside from the CIA, the days of working with one organization for 30 years to get the gold watch are history. There is incredible competition in most industries and an ever-present need to attract and retain good talent. And when you consider that many of today’s producers are working independently from a virtual office, and that there plenty of opportunities for the brightest and best to find work elsewhere, it becomes clear that fostering employee loyalty couldn’t be any more critical than it is right now.
I believe in loyalty.
I believe loyalty is a two-way street; you can’t expect it if you don’t show it. But loyalty is not something that just magically happens.
Loyalty is a by-product of strong relationships, and nothing motivates people like a committed investment in a mutually gratifying relationship. The workplace is no different than any other part of your life when it comes to this. You have to do it with your spouse, your friends and your co-workers.
Here’s a textbook example: When Microsoft launched a Twitter bot in an attempt to advance how artificial intelligence communicates with human beings in real time, things didn’t go well. After months and months of development, the project had to be shut down only 16 hours after launch when hackers caused the bot to begin making racist and profane comments. Yikes.
After the debacle, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella didn’t throw his team under the bus. Instead, a portion of his follow-up email to his A.I. team included the phrases: “Keep pushing, and know that I am with you… (The) key is to keep learning and improving.”
That’s loyalty. You create it by setting the best example possible through your own actions. You do it by getting down in the trenches with your employees and showing them how much you appreciate their efforts. You do it with a pat on the back, a well-timed compliment, or an unexpected reward. And loyalty doesn’t stop with employees; it extends to customers.
Years ago I was attending an industry conference when a property manager (and customer) came up to me and said, “Craig, I’ve got a story to tell you.”
Now, when we first met, this property manager was working with three or four homeowners associations at the time, and he’d been turned down by a number of banks because he “just wasn’t big enough.” Well, he was big enough for us, and I could see that he had what it took to be successful. We signed him up, and in four short years, he had grown to 50 or 60 homeowner groups and was doing great.
He pulled me aside and said, “Every week the rep from the big bank downtown comes into my office, and every week he asks me when I’m going to start banking with him. This is the same guy who turned me down when I was getting started four years ago. I remember him saying back then, ‘Oh, you’re too small. We can’t do business with you.’ Now every time he comes in asking for my business, I tell him, ’Do you really think I’m going to move my business? Where were you when I needed your help four years ago?’”
This valued customer looked at me and said, “You were there for me, Craig, and I’ll always appreciate that.”
Loyalty is earned. It’s a long-term commitment. You can’t put a price tag on loyalty. It’s invaluable and intangible.
And the only way to get it is to give it. First.