No one would argue that loyalty, like trust, are essential elements to leadership. But, loyalty, and trust, are a lot like motivation in a way. You can’t make someone trust you or be loyal to you, nor can you motivate someone. These elements are internally generated for employees. While these are critical elements of good leadership and a result of a solid working relationships, how do you earn loyalty, and trust, as a leader?
Even though these are internally generated, you can create a work environment as a leader that is conducive to creating a loyal workforce. Ultimately, true loyalty from an employee comes when the manager is able to build a relationship with the employee based upon deep trust. We have seen great leaders utilize the following six strategies to develop a loyal workforce.
- Clarify and live your values. What do you value? Do your behaviors align with the values you stand for? If you say you value honesty, do you accept truthful feedback even when it may not be what you want to hear or do you prefer employees who will be deceptive or dishonest if that is what it takes to make you look good in the eyes of others? When managers endorse an employee’s loyalty over true honesty, it is obvious that the manager is operating on a self-centered value system. This value system is geared to personal success rather than employee and organizational success.
- Be honest. Being honest builds the trust level between manager and employee, especially when it costs the manager something to be honest. For example, a manager tells the team that the company is talking about a pending layoff due to lack of business. Having the courage to deliver this unwelcome news demonstrates an attitude of genuine caring; it says, “I care enough about you to be honest and to give you what information I currently have regarding company decisions.” Managers, who are consistently honest with employees, even when it costs them something to be honest, will build a team of loyal employees.
- Care about the employee first as an individual, then as an employee. Great leaders know that when they care about employees as people first, then as employees, many positive things happen. One of them is a loyal workforce. A manager sent an employee home that was not feeling well on a day when the entire office was swamped with projects and deadlines. The employee did not want to place a heavier burden on the other remaining employees by going home. But the manager stated, “The most important thing is your health. We can figure out how to accomplish everything else.” This sent out a clear message that the individual was more important than the department’s immediate workload.
- Value the employee as a “gift” rather than as a “commodity.” When an employee knows that he or she is really valued, and that you believe the employee makes a positive difference, you will find stronger bonds of loyalty. In contrast, if employees sense that you only care that a warm body fills a particular position, that it does not matter who does the work, they will feel like a commodity. Leaders who value each employee and who also recognize each one as contributing a unique “gift” evoke stronger bonds of loyalty from employees.
- Trust your people. When managers do not trust their subordinates, they send out all sorts of signals. Not passing along significant responsibilities and withholding important information from employees are two signals that convey a lack of confidence in and commitment to your employees. When this occurs, employees perceive that they are not meaningful to the success of the department. They sense that their manager is not to be trusted. Without trust, there can be no true loyalty.
- Encourage people to question or challenge you. When employees care enough to ask managers tough questions, it provides managers with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to truth and honesty. Ask employees questions. Ask them about their understanding of the topic being discussed. For example, a manager might ask an employee, “What happens if we do change? And, what will happen if we do not change?” Managers who dislike being challenged are managers who lack confidence in their ability to do the job. Managers who enjoy challenges from employees recognize that working through the difficulties and questions presents opportunities to develop employees who are even more loyal than employees who never question anything.
Being a manager today is tougher than ever before. Today’s managers are faced with challenges unheard of fifty years ago. To doubt the loyalty of those you supervise doesn’t need to be added to your list of pressures.
Implement these six strategies to build trust that will foster a loyal team. Then, as you lead, your team will be there with you, willingly offering their support and their contributions–and their loyalty.