The Concept of Loyalty and How It Relates to Business


By Dick Haney

As we started out the New Year, there were at least in my family the obligatory college football games to be viewed on January 1st. These games are part sport, part pageant and in many instances the most visual expression of loyalty that we will probably see all year. The stands are full of present and former classmates who all gather for one reason and that is to cheer for the football team of their University. How that football team does on that day at whatever Bowl Game they attend has a dramatic effect on the level of philanthropy that will be contributed by Alumni in the following year. In short, a winning football team means big, big dollars for the institution with the winning record.

This same phenomena was present at the World Junior Hockey Tournament in Buffalo played in the holiday season. Although the games were played in the U.S., the stands were full of red jerseys. Canadians flocked across the border en mass to watch “our boys” take on “their boys”. Today, which is Monday we watched Canada beat the United States and our flag was raised to the great pride of all those who were dressed in red at the game as well as all of us that watched the event on television. Was that an expression of patriotism, loyalty, love of the sport, or a combination of all or none of the above?

For Flames fans, this holiday was really a great one to remember. The Flames actually were able to cobble together a four game winning streak and didn’t actually die in the second period the way they have most of this season. That four game winning streak was accomplished without Daryl Sutter who abruptly left the organization last week. He left the organization without even a farewell press conference as far as I am aware. He is the same Daryl Sutter who a short time ago was honorary parade marshal for the Calgary Stampede Parade. My how quickly we forget. The same masses that rooted for Daryl Sutter and the Flames in their ill fated run for the Stanley Cup a number of years ago have since stampeded to the exits as his leadership faltered in the last few seasons. In the words of John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco “Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.”

What does this say about the concept of loyalty and how does this relate to Farm Businesses? Quoting Rensis Likert, “The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals.” Likert’s quote has food for thought for all managers. But I think that Ben Franklin’s quote just before signing the Declaration of Independence that kicked off the U.S. Revolutionary War is more appropriate where he said, “We must indeed all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately” when he was referring to what would happen to the founding fathers if the thirteen colonies in fact lost the conflict. Stephen Nathanson, professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University states that loyalty can be exclusionary or non-exclusionary and can be single or multiple. He goes on to enumerate five other dimensions that loyalty can vary along: basis, strength, scope, legitimacy and attitude. Obviously, the concept of loyalty is one that has taken up many hours of discussion and study that goes far beyond what I hope to achieve in this article, but suffice it to say loyalty is a lot more than screaming at the top of your lungs for someone that is racing toward the opposition’s net in some hockey rink.

This is all good and well, but backing up one step how do we instill loyalty in those team members in our businesses to achieving common goals and thereby by success? I believe that there are a number of things that must be present in order to instill loyalty in groups, and more specifically in business organizations.

The first thing is that all involved must understand the plan in order to be loyal to it. This couldn’t have been demonstrated more clearly than in Canada’s first military triumph as a nation where the Canadian contingent took Vimy Ridge in the Battle of Arras. This was the first time in military history that all, even the lowly infantryman was supplied with a map of the battlefield and thereby knew how each man as a single fighting unit fit into the battle plan. Think of it. For the first time all who were being asked to lay down their lives in a battle actually know how they fit into achieving the overall objectives.

Secondly, there must be faith and trust in those who are responsible for making the decisions for the Company. In order to be loyal to the plan, it is mandatory that all in the organization believe in the abilities of those making the decisions. Going back to the Football example, in a passing play, the offensive coordinator calls the play, the quarterback has the responsibility to pick which receiver to throw the ball to, the receivers have to run the proper routes but if the linesmen don’t do their job it’s all for naught. It all starts with the faith in the offensive coordinator’s ability to make the right decision, and it ends with the team’s ability to faithfully execute. When it’s 4th and inches, and we saw a play like this in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday that was unsuccessful, it is everyone’s responsibility to make the decision successful even though that decision may not meet with unanimous agreement from all parties. Here comes the tough part. If the play is not successful then the rubber hits the road as to whether or not all are loyal to the plan and the organization and continue to be so. Everyone must try just as hard the next time to be successful even though it is based on historical failure and that means continued loyalty in the face of adversity.

Thirdly there must be a deep-rooted belief in what one is doing, or the cause one is fighting for. I look to our neighbors to the east. I have said many times that if you could find what makes the people of Saskatchewan so loyal to their Province and bottle it and sell it, you would be a billionaire not a millionaire. I have had the privilege to know many people from that fine Province, some who still live there and some who make their homes in other Provinces now, but there is in most cases that burning intense loyalty to what one of my friends affectionately refers to as the “Fatherland.” Whether or not they still call that Province their home. You only have to look as far as McMahon Stadium when the Roughriders come to Calgary to see a sea of green jerseys and watermelon helmets on those who call themselves part of Rider Nation. What pride and what loyalty! What if you could instill that same pride and loyalty in the people involved in your business?

Fourthly, loyalty is a two way street. Loyalty begets loyalty. If you expect loyalty from your partners or subordinates, you must be willing to bestow that same loyalty on them. To expect loyalty from others while not returning the favor is just not possible. People who give to you one of life’s most precious commodities have a right to expect no less in return. If the scales don’t balance then this relationship is guaranteed to fail.

Fifthly, loyalty cannot be fleeting. It must always be present, in both the good and bad times. It is very easy to be loyal when the business ship is sailing in clear skies and fair winds, but when that same ship finds itself in stormy seas and turbulent times, that is when loyalty is needed most and unfortunately that is where it is found the least. One must pick your team with great care; those that are steady at the helm and understand the meaning of commitment and longevity. Henry Hudson and Captain Bligh did not, but Admiral Chester Nimitz and Sir Francis Drake did and the results and successes of those men speak for themselves.

I have not provided solutions here, but hopefully have provoked some thought and discussion on this very important concept. As managers your ability to instill loyalty in your team may ultimately determine whether you end up like Henry Hudson cast adrift as a result of a crew mutiny, or sail your Golden Hind into the history books after circumnavigating the globe. Those managers who have the ability to surround themselves with individuals that are loyal to their colleagues, their business and it’s plan are far closer to achieving the success they desire in their organizations.

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