“You can buy a person’s hands but you can’t buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm, his loyalty is.” — Stephen R. Covey
Continuing on from the last post, I figured I would go into a little bit more detail on one of the most important aspects of an effective team — loyalty. Loyalty is hard to define, yet everyone knows what it is when they see it. For the purpose of this entry, we’ll define loyalty as having complete faith in somebody’s ability, but also having the respect to disagree with them and still see them as an equal.
Loyalty is important within a team because it allows for uninhibited discussion and unlocks the full potential of the group by freeing up the flow of ideas. For example, think about your closest friend at this very moment. You probably go to them whenever you have things going on in your life that need to be discussed with another person. But why do you do this? Because you know that person will give you their honest, heartfelt advice no matter what, and they will do whatever they can to help you through the situation. That is as close to the definition of loyalty that you can get in a real life situation. In a group, this translates to the ability of each member to make the best contributions that they can, and also the ability to thoughtfully critique others’ ideas without consequence.
As Covey states, loyalty cannot be bought. It can only be earned by consistently proving to someone that you are worth their unwavering trust and friendship. There are many things that contribute to earning another’s loyalty, but here are some of the main ones:
Be a good listener — There is no greater sign of respect than listening closely and waiting to speak
Respect their ideas — Never discount or make fun of someone’s idea simply because it seems ridiculous to you. It turns out that everybody thinks differently, and just because it is different does not mean it is wrong.
Be selfless — Take a minute to do something for somebody else. The impact it has can be much larger than the effort you put into it.
“Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” — Woodrow Wilson
I’d also like to talk a little bit about what loyalty is not. Loyalty is not sacrificing any part of the team for a personal advantage, no matter how large. In fact, loyalty is being able to sacrifice yourself in order to give the team an advantage. Loyalty is also not an excuse to be mean or condescending towards people who you are not especially tied to.
Loyalty can make a huge difference in a team, and anyone who acts on selfish urges detracts from the ability of the entire team. Loyalty means offering to do that annoying side job so everyone else can focus on the main task. And when you’re in over your head, loyalty means that the team should be there helping you out just as you did for them. Loyalty means giving without expecting anything in return, but knowing that the people you gave to have your back just as you had theirs.