Friday, 19 May 2017

Let's talk Loyalty.

Many leaders feel that loyalty is a given.  Anyone on their team must adhere to the policies and principles that are set out by the leader.  To run contrary to these values is to be dis-loyal and the ‘offender’ is subject to discipline up to and including dismissal.

In many instances, I concur with this generalization.  One should know and agree with the culture of the company before accepting employment.  To state afterwards that you do not agree with aspects of the culture is not a valid complaint.

What many leaders fail to recognize is that loyalty is a two way street. 

As the leader, the culture that you establish significantly influences the reason that individuals are attracted to work for you and to continue to work for you.  It is on the basis of this culture which aligns with the individual’s personal beliefs that relationships are established and maintained.

This cultural alignment also extends externally to your clients and your suppliers.  It is not unreasonable to say that these are relationships based on loyalty to you and, by extension, to your company.  As a provider of goods or services, your loyal clients have built trust in your recommendations and look to you almost as a partner in their business. 

As much as loyalty serves your interests - whether that is the internal loyalty of staff or the external loyalty of others - it is important to recognize that the loyalty is built on a two way street.  You must remain loyal to the culture which attracted both in the first place.  It is a relationship built first and foremost on that which you offer them, not vice versa.  Their trust, their commitment, their loyalty is built on the foundation of trust and commitment and loyalty that you present and maintain.

In most instances these people, internal and external, will remain loyal unless and until your position changes, i.e. until you cease to be loyal to that which you first represented.  When you make a material movement away from that foundation, you have ceased to be loyal to the vision; you have broken the bonds that formed the relationship.  Therefore, when others respond by pulling away or disconnecting entirely, the fault lies with you, not them.  

Your behavior was the catalyst of change and their response is not one of disloyalty.  Rather it is a normal and healthy response that affords them the time to analyze whether or not the changes that you initiated constitute enough of a violation as to prompt their changed loyalty.

Loyalty is not synonym for allegiance.  The two are quite different.  Loyalty is a choice and is two way.  Allegiance is a command and goes only one way.  The problem arises when the leader asks for loyalty but expects allegiance.  This prompts unrealistic expectations on both sides of the relationship.  It is only a matter of time before the disconnect results in a complete breakdown and disintegration of the union of the parties.

You are the leader.  You set the tone; you set the culture; you control the work environment; you establish and maintain the parameters under which the business or the unit will function.  Continually check to ensure that the standards that you presented are kept – or improved.  In so doing you will have done your part in holding true to the part of the loyalty equation which is your responsibility.  And you should reasonably expect others to do likewise.  It is this partnership that makes your efforts a success.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Conspicuous Consumption

Many businesses across North America, and indeed around the world, are consumed by the financial imperatives of the next quarter.  They spend enormous amounts of time pouring over numbers and generating budgets and estimates and then breaking them down into bite sized units of quarters, months and sometimes even days. 

The organization becomes singularly focused on meeting or exceeding the next set of results that is anticipated by the ‘street’.  Protecting and growing shareholder value is the principal reason for every decision.  The bar is set higher and higher and the pressure to perform mounts with each passing financial report.

Once a target is met, it’s on to the next.  Like the dog chasing its own tail, the pursuit is endless.

I want to offer a contrarian opinion.

As the leader, you must be consumed by the process of achievement; you cannot be consumed by the achievement itself.  Let me explain.

Your role is to pour your passion; your integrity; your experience; your knowledge and your vision into the process of achievement.  It is only in the process that you have the opportunity to interact with your team and to build into each person the culture and values that keep your enterprise successful.  The achievement itself- the attainment of the goal – becomes the natural outcome of the work done in the process. 

It may seem that I am splitting hairs but I assure that I am not. You can and must separate the process from the result.

 Let me use this simple example.

Two writers are asked to write a mystery novel.  Writer #1 submits 20 chapters of increasingly complex detail and intrigue before finally revealing the mystery.
Writer #2 submits just one line … ‘the butler, in the parlour with a candlestick…’

Both arrived at the same place but which was the successful submission.

Being fully committed – being consumed – by your role is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.  Provided that you maintain a balance in your life, being consumed is much better than a half-hearted effort.  

But keep your focus on that which matters and the results will come.  If you are consumed only by the goal and not the process you will lose your joy that comes with the achieving on the way to the achievement.