28 Jun 2018


Loyalty is variously described as: a devotion and faithfulness to a cause, country, group or person; the state of being loyal to commitments or obligations; feelings of support or duty towards someone or something; and faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader or cause. It is one of the glues that hold relationships together and inspiring loyalty is one of the traits that distinguishes a great leader from a good one.


How can you tell when someone is totally loyal to their team? Loyal team members will have a genuine understanding of and interest in the team’s and organisation’s needs and challenges and may even anticipate them. They are team players and consider themselves part of the fabric. They will also demonstrate a commitment to their own professional development within the organisation, creating a lasting bond that goes beyond the standard employee-employer dynamic.


Loyalty impacts on our lives in many ways and demonstrates consideration, responsibility and decency. For example, if we can’t stay loyal or committed to a language course or other learning platform we’re unlikely to progress. Relationships, meanwhile, tend to deteriorate fast when people fail to maintain them, and part of doing that is showing loyalty and prioritising our friends and acquaintances over strangers or people with whom we have fewer ties.


If you want a strong, cohesive team, capable of pulling together through thick and thin, you need loyalty. Loyalty helps people become followers who are willing and able to learn, respect and take advice from their leader and from one another, and demonstrate total commitment towards the team and its goals. Loyalty is found in teams where members identify strongly with the group’s vision, values and culture, where people rely on and support each other, and where effort and commitment are rewarded with long-term personal development and individual and team recognition.


When trust breaks down it can sound the death knell in a relationship, whether personal or business. Conversely, as trust grows, so do the benefits that those relationships can reap. Over time, for example, loyal customers spend 67 per cent more than new ones, says Accenture, while 43 per cent have switched providers because they lost trust in the company.


Leaders who inspire loyalty in their teams tend to share certain characteristics. They trust their team members, giving them responsibilities and encouraging accountability. They also win the trust and respect of their team, being consistent in their expectations, rewards and discipline, creating an open, honest culture and getting stuck in whenever necessary to help the team get through tough times. They are also empathetic, building bonds with team members by taking a genuine interest in their lives, problems and needs and investing in their development and improvement.


Inertia is not the same as loyalty, so just because people haven’t left in their droves it doesn’t mean they are happy and loyal. Apparent satisfaction can be misleading and dangerous because it lulls you into a false sense of security that you’re doing all the right things. The reality may simply be that people don’t like change or that an alternative isn’t readily available. When circumstances change or you make one too many mistakes, it’s likely people’s loyalty, or lack of, will be laid bare.


Making your support and communication as personal as possible increases the likelihood that it will be remembered in a positive light when someone considers where to turn for help. Follow up interactions quickly, ideally by phone or in person, always using the other person’s name and referencing past contact to show you remember them. Keep them updated on what you’re doing for them, whether that’s dealing with a specific issue or letting them know how the organisation is improving standards that will affect them directly.


Ensuring people keep coming back for more of what you do is about giving them something they simply can’t get anywhere else, but as there are relatively few unique innovations or services out there, this loyalty usually comes down to personal relationships. Treat people in a way that makes them feel like valued and respected individuals and they are more likely to remain loyal, even if a competitor offers an alternative.