“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Transcendent words at a crucial time from President Lincoln, but also a universal truth.
Leadership divided against itself cannot lead.
Loyalty is the glue that holds a leadership team together. If the leadership team isn’t loyalty to each other, you can’t expect the rest of the team to be loyal.
How do you engender team loyalty? Here’s some ideas.
#1. Loyalty is top down.
A leadership team must first and foremost be loyal to each other. If there is discord at the top, it will trickle down to the team. Even if nothing is ever said out loud, people will know when the leadership team isn’t unified.
If there is discord at the top level of leadership, fix those problems first. If the steering doesn’t work, then there’s no point in fixing a flat tire.
#2. Explain the why.
This is one of the most important qualities of modern leadership.
Technology empowered individuals in the information age don’t like to be told what to do. Try walking into a high school classroom today. Effective teachers don’t boss students around, expecting them to just blindly do what they say. Instead they explain the reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing.
When people get the bigger picture and can visualize the long-term benefits of an initiative, they’ll follow the lead, even if it means increased short-term challenges for them.
Leaders today provide solid justifications for the direction they’re taking the team. They explain rather than order.
When this is expertly done, you won’t have to tell people to follow you. They’ll do it because they want to.
#3. Leaders cannot be silent.
Leadership teams explain, but they also listen.
If a leadership team doesn’t have free flow of communication where creative thinking and problem solving are welcome, it isn’t really a team.
Organizations that encourage communication and thinking outside the box are eminently stronger than those with only one voice followed by silence.
Make sure your team feels empowered to speak up and make suggestions – even far out ones. It’s better to have group teaming with creative ideas (even when most of them can’t be used) than to have team stifled by rigid leadership.
#4. We before me.
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of few – or the one.”
More sage wisdom, this time from Spock in Star Trek. Fictional, but still a good point.
Real leaders put the needs of their team before their own. In fact, it isn’t even close.
We’ve all worked with managers that were poor leaders. More often than not, the problem is they’re really thinking about their own position instead how their work will lift the team.
The few cannot lead if the many don’t follow. If your main goal is put yourself in a prime position, you’re not really a leader.
#5. Have a Mission
Every team needs a mission or goal to rally around. There is nothing more motivating than a shared purpose everyone believes in.
It’s the responsibility of your leadership team to define what your mission is and to kindle the passion that drives action in your team.
Again, you’re not ordering people around. You’re giving purpose to your work.
#6. Be Present
You really can’t get it done as a leader if you’re not present and leading by example.
Leaders set the tone for the team. If you’re dialed-in and on task, you send a strong message for your team to do the same.
Effective leaders, however, are not slave drivers. As a leader you’re working harder than anybody, but you also make sure people can catch their breath. You get the work done, but also make your work environment enjoyable.
Be there and live the work day just like your team.
#7. Be Fair
There is no other way to lose team loyalty fast than to play favorites.
It’s wonderful that you’re buddy – or your child – is working on your team. But if you are obviously playing favorites because of those relationships, it will get noticed by the rest of the team.
And they won’t reward this behavior with high levels of loyalty.
Loyalty is reciprocal. You’ll get it from your team when you give it fairly and evenly – to everyone.
Outwardly, people might cringe at the idea of being held accountable for the work. It’s kind of like going to the doctor for an examination. Scrutiny makes everyone a little nervous.
But the truth is people do like to be held accountable for their work because it shows that the leadership cares about what they’re doing.
If you’ve ever had a job where there was little accountability, you know what we mean. It might seem kind of nice at first – you feel kind of free. But then you begin to wonder if anyone cares about what you do. If there is no accountability, you won’t feel like your work is important, which is a feeling that degrades loyalty.
Leaders hold team members accountable because they care about the outcomes of their work. It’s not always easy, but it is the kind of tough love that builds strong relationships.
#9. Be Encouraging!
Highlight work well done. Compliment people on their effort. Encourage people with positivity.
Provide constructive criticism as needed, but make sure that’s not all your communicating. A pat on the back is a sure fire way to earn loyalty.
#10. Set High Goals
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Strong words from Vince Lombardi.
If you really want your team to pull together, set specific, challenging team goals.
Sometimes a little reverse psychology even works here. Set a goal and indicate to your team that you think they only have a slim chance of getting it done.
Professionals get ornery if they think someone’s selling them short. One sure way to light a fire under these types is to tell them they can’t do something.
#11. Embrace Challenges
Setting goals is powerful, but remember that the point of the journey is not to arrive. You set goals and strive to achieve them, but the greatest impact on team loyalty is struggling together (what JB calls a trauma bond).
When you overcome an obstacle, what you really remember is the effort you made, not just the moment of success.
Challenge your team to work together to achieve excellence. That, after all, is what teamwork is all about.
#12. Teams Evolve
In today’s world, people move on – a lot. We live in a fluid society that always presents new opportunities (isn’t that a great thing?).
So people that are loyal to you will move on in their career as they move on in life. Be prepared for it by always grooming other people so they can fill in leadership roles and quickly master the work.