John R. Stoker has been immersed in organizational development and change for over 20 years. He is the Founder and President of Light Storm Consulting, Inc. and DialogueWORKS, LLC. In these roles John has worked extensively with a number of companies, helping them increase their capacity to enhance effectiveness and improve results. John is also the author of the popular groundbreaking book Overcoming Fake Talk, which was released in May of 2013.
May 1st in the United States is Loyalty Day. It is a day when citizens acknowledge and affirm their allegiance to the country and to their heritage of American freedom. The U.S. Congress designated May 1st as Loyalty Day on July 18, 1958.
This year’s annual observance gave me cause to reflect on the loyalty that leaders and employees have to each other. One of my clients recently finished their analysis of the annual employee opinion survey and discovered that if employees had the opportunity to take another job they would do so. The survey also identified that upper management was aloof or estranged from their team members. It isn’t hard to interpret that the lack of connection among leaders and their teams or the individuals who work for them would result in various forms of discontent that would impact morale and performance. This situation seems to be even more prevalent today as more emphasis is placed on the bottom line and less on the manager-employee relationship.
In order to help you assess whether your leadership inspires the loyalty that you would hope would exist for you and your organization, here are 12 questions to ask yourself for personal reflection.
1. Do you clearly share a purpose and vision for the work people are doing? People want to know that they are making a difference and that what they do adds value. If your people don’t have the bigger picture of the critical part they play in the company’s success, then their work ends up being a mundane series of tasks that are completed with a bare minimum of effort.
2. Are you positive and enthusiastic about the challenges that you and your team face? There never seems to be a shortage of things to do—we all have increasing demands on our time and resources. Maintaining a positive outlook on all of your current challenges helps others to maintain their energy and excitement as well. Your people will often reflect your energy for the tasks at hand. Your attitude is contagious— a positive viewpoint will inspire and uplift others to continue to work hard and not get discouraged.
3. Do you take a personal interest in the members of your team? This is a tough question for some leaders who are task-, process-, or action-oriented. Because such leaders tend to focus solely on results, they may have no interest in personally knowing about their people. However, everyone wants to know that others care about them. Taking a moment to gain some personal knowledge about those who work for you, demonstrates your concern and helps them feel valued.
5. Do you provide regular feedback? People will work harder and smarter when they know they are meeting your expectations and when they are not. No one likes to hear at the quarterly review that their manager was upset with their performance weeks ago and they were not told so they could change and improve.
6. Are you consistent in how you deal with others? No one likes to work for Dr. Jekyll one day and Mr. Hyde the next. I had such an experience early in my career, and it was very frustrating, to say the least. It caused me and my teammates to tiptoe around our manager, withhold information that might be deemed negative, keep to ourselves, and be less than candid and open. Such behavior has a negative impact on collaboration, contribution, as well as cooperation.
7. Do you express appreciation to others? Taking the time to celebrate individual and team successes and accomplishments forces you to notice what people are doing well. Shining a light on positive behavior and actions reinforces what people have been doing correctly and will ensure that they repeat the same behavior again. Expressing sincere appreciation will motivate your people and inspire their loyalty
8. Are you emotionally intelligent? As a manager, you can have your emotions, or they can have you. If you are the type of individual who is easily frustrated or becomes negatively emotional and then lashes out or verbally accosts others, it’s important to recognize that these responses will not help you achieve the results you desire. Understanding the source of your negative emotional reaction is the key to gaining self-mastery. When you begin to feel your emotions start to get the best of you, consider asking and answering for yourself, “What did I want and not get?” Negative emotional reactions are triggered by a perceived violation of positive values. Identifying your triggers will help you to be more in control of your feelings.
9. Do you ask questions and invite others to share their perspectives? Asking questions is one of the easiest ways to create respect. Seeking the viewpoints and experiences of others demonstrates an interest in an individual’s expertise and the contributions that they make. This practice also helps to create a culture of candor and openness where people are willing to share and learn from each other. Over time this process will build people’s trust in your leadership and loyalty to you.
10. Do you provide opportunities for your people to grow and develop? These opportunities might include various kinds of training that will help them to develop new skills and abilities, participation in networking or industry sharing events, attending conferences, working with a coach or mentor, etc. If your organization doesn’t have these types of available resources, then perhaps you should consider the opportunity to teach them yourself or look for others within your organization that could help. Or, you might look for developmental assignments which will cause individuals to learn new skills under your mentorship and guidance. You want to be sure that your people don’t stagnate in their development but continue to grow and improve.
11. Do you listen with intent and thoughtfulness when others feel safe enough to respond to your questions? Attention is about being present. If you think you can fake listening and feign focus on what others are saying and doing, you will severely call your authenticity into question. If you ask questions, you must truly listen. If you don’t have time to listen to a concern or response, then manage the interaction and reschedule when you do have the time to listen.
12. Are you authentic in how you interact with your people? I once had a manager who tried to be what he thought everyone wanted him to be. He could only do this for so long before he would do something that revealed his true character. People know when you are not being genuine. Don’t hesitate to tell your people how you feel about certain things or what is important to you and why. If you always say what you mean and mean what you say, it will go a long way toward increasing loyalty. People come to know who they can count on.
Loyalty is created through connections with others. When your people really know that you have their best interests at heart, they will not only give you their hands and their backs but also their minds and their hearts.