Loyalty – in today’s business world, we don’t really talk enough about how valuable this particular trait can be in an employee. Most business owners are used to losing employees to either a competitor or upward mobility in their careers every few years. But this is not always the case – a great business leader will draw out a sense of loyalty from those who work with them. They will see people make career decisions based on what is best for the company or organization, or move to positions within the organization that will increase the level of involvement they have with that leader, because they have taken on the leader’s vision as their own rather than merely chasing a paycheck or a higher level of career prestige.
But what do you do when you are faced with a case of loyalty not being enough?
I recently had a client who had a young man working for him with a lot of potential, who had been actively recruited, and had quickly taken on the owner’s vision for the business. A few months into employment, however, the young man was not meeting the benchmarks expected, was often distracted by personal things going on in his life, and because his role was one that affected everyone else on the team, others were becoming disgruntled over it.
The owner followed a very organized system that I had helped him create that had been put in place for correction, disciplinary action, and causal termination if needed. After following the first two levels, some improvement was seen but not a sufficient amount; the owner was in a state of conflict as to what to do next. He recognized how immensely valuable the loyalty factor was, and saw the potential of this young man having a pivotal role in the future expansion of the company.
After consulting with me, I suggested he go over the statistical data he had for this person (sales and customer satisfaction) and see if there were any patterns. When a business owner knows how to “read” their stats, it can be a very useful and powerful tool in identifying the origination of a problem. Often in sales, the problem stems from either lack of training in one or more areas, or lack of confidence.
In this case, there were some obvious gaps. We sat with the young man and designed a plan of action including additional training, daily accountability meetings, and weekly stats reviews. We were able to get him on track and excelling and, a year later, he is showing signs of that potential coming through as they plan an expansion with him as a general manager.
What if things had not turned around? Again, having a system in place and a plan to follow is key. But the purpose of a system is not to replace your connection to your team and make it an automatic process with no room for discernment and flexibility. The axiom that “it is not just getting the right people on the bus, but getting them in the right seat on the bus” is very true; sometimes they are just in the wrong seat, or you are not the right bus regardless of their heart for it. In the case above, the owner could have simply followed his process and eventually ended up letting go of what became a great team leader. The process allowed him to take steps of evaluation that guided him through to a better decision. But it could have also made it clear to both of them that the young man was not on the right bus, and the owner could have assisted him in finding the right one. Great leaders carry a heart for their people as well as the vision for their company.