Eight Lessons for Building Loyalty

October 12, 2012

“The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to each other.” – Mario Puzo

I recently revisited a couple of my all-time favorite movies – The Godfather and The Godfather Part II – and I was reminded of the most significant lesson from both films: the importance of loyalty.

There have been many blogs and articles about how different aspects from the mafia code (or “Omertà”) could apply to today’s leaders, but it is loyalty that is the key to and the basis of that code. Without loyalty, you will not gain the respect and support of those around you (which, in mob movies, usually results in a violent end). A leader needs the loyalty, respect and support of their employees in order for their business to succeed; however, loyalty is a two-way street built on relationships, shared understanding, trust and respect.

So, as a leader, what can you do to demonstrate loyalty to your employees?

Try incorporating some of these ideas from executive coach Jo Romano in your everyday dealings with them:

  1. Clarify your values and goals. You must determine for yourself what you value in an employee. When you are absolutely clear that you want a work environment that encourages honesty, you will attract it, and the loyalty and respect will follow. Also consider what loyalty means to you, and create a dialogue with your employee about what loyalty means to him or her. This ensures that everyone is on the same page.
  2. Be honest yourself. You can’t expect your employees to be loyal to you if you aren’t being honest and acting with integrity. Loyalty breeds loyalty, just as dishonesty breeds dishonesty. Be truthful with your employees, even if it hurts. Respect comes when your employees know that it cost you something to be honest with them.
  3. Care for your employees. Your company’s most valuable asset is the people it employs. Get to know your employees as people first, and then as workers. Seek opportunities to connect with them on a personal level. Get to know their interests, hobbies, aspirations, and goals. Treat them with the respect and care they deserve.
  4. Trust your employees. Don’t withhold crucial information or responsibilities from your employees. This will signal to them that you don’t trust them and that will erode the confidence they have in your leadership. To get trust and loyalty from your staff members, you must first give it to them.
  5. Encourage employees to question you. Questioning or challenging you is often a sign that your employee cares enough about you and the company to express his or her concerns honestly. It gives you a chance to create a dialogue with your employee so that you can both discover solutions and answers for the issues. The employees to watch out for are the ones who don’t challenge you since they may not be engaged enough!
  6. Encourage growth opportunities. Encourage your employees to seek out advice and assistance from other managers and supervisors. This is not showing a lack of loyalty to you; it is aiding in your employees’ professional growth by broadening their perspective, building their confidence and positioning you as being secure in your role as their leader.
  7. Reward loyalty. Set up a reward or incentive program. Loyalty is not earned by giving big raises and impersonal gifts on an annual basis, but by offering a gift of something that is unique and meaningful to them. If you’ve created a relationship with your employee, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the right thing. If all else fails, ask them what their chosen reward would be!
  8. Be sensitive to work/life conflicts. Effective and loyal leaders know that work is only one aspect of an employee’s life. Loyal employers will foster an environment where employees are free to come to them with their work/life balance concerns so that they can together look for solutions. Take care to treat them as more than a cog in the machine, and they will reward you with their loyalty.

If you can follow all of these tips, Don Corleone would be proud – just try to do so without whacking anyone.

Kimberle Adkins is Vice President/Meeting Design based in Ketchum’s New York office. She specializes in designing the content and experience for all large agency meetings. She’s a born and bred Jersey girl, a New Orleanian at heart, an intense music fan and adores her new puppy, a toy poodle named Nikki.