I think it’s every leader’s dream that staff show up excited to be at work, play hard all day, produce amazing results, and pledge undying loyalty to the company. Then reality hits.
Leaders get disillusioned when staff don’t seem to care as much as they do. They don’t put in as many hours or see the bigger picture like they do. Then the complaints start: Staff have a sense of entitlement! They’re not performing at the right level! They’re not the right fit!
Some of this may be true.
In the worst case scenario you have a team of mutineers. Not to be mistaken for Musketeers! Both tend to seek company of like-minded peers. The former have self-righteous malicious intent, the latter has righteous flair. Both can be disruptive. Mutineers are worse.
If you have mutineers on board, you are in for a world of pain. Strong action is required. It means that your systems, structure, tribe, touch points and tasks are all out of whack. If you don’t get forced to walk the plank, then courageous accountability and transparency is the intervention required here – from the leader first.
This is a thorny issue. How do you contend with the sense of “I deserve it”? These individuals have a strong sense that something is owed to them. They feel the balance of effort versus return is out of balance whereas the leader sees it the other way around: employees have not yet given enough effort to warrant the (perceived) high expectations and demands. When staff start expressing their desire for more, and frustration that it’s not being delivered, the root cause is often lack of appreciation. Appreciation in leadership is like exercise for the body: it needs to be done regularly, with varying effort, in different contexts to keep from getting bored and getting stuck on a plateau.
Much has been written on the subject, largely to explain and then bemoan its absence in the corporate world. It seems that a few of us care about our work, organisations, and the people we work with.
I have not found this to be true. There are plenty of motivated and hard-working employees. One of the key components for successful teams and organisations is that there is a sense of growth, challenge, and fun.
When engagement starts to drop off, the key elements missing are appreciation, growth, and belonging. This is the tipping point. Get it wrong, and you slide towards entitlement. Get it right, and you tip the scales towards loyalty.
This is the holy grail of any business. If only people would do as they said, the way we want them to, and keep turning up for more. Loyalty can be an asset, and it can also be an Achilles heel.
Loyalty can blind us to the failings of our peers and the system as a whole. If we value loyalty above other values we can compromise our integrity. Think Doug Stamper in House of Cards. Doug’s one key value is loyalty. He will literally do anything for his boss Frank Underwood including committing fraud, bullying, accepting blame for a murder he did not commit, and even committing a murder of his own. This is loyalty gone wrong. This kind of loyalty is based on fear of losing power and position, not love.
Healthy loyalty creates engaged employees. This happens when individuals feel part of the system, appreciate the system, but do not owe their identity to it.
Healthy loyalty is generated from the structures and systems we have in place that facilitate appreciation growth and belonging. The more we can create a sense of belonging, the stronger the healthy loyalty is. To avoid the dangers of blind loyalty, your job as a leader at this stage is to also foster independent thinking and an open forum where people can challenge each other’s ideas constructively. In other words, you’re building leaders and a system that supports them.
Where does your team sit? What can you do to create more accountability, appreciation, growth, and belonging?