Loyalty Is…..

Loyalty Generations

loyalty - Boy Scout

Technically, I am a Baby Boomer, although I am right near the end of that generation and in some ways identify with Generation X‘ers as well.  So call me a Boomer X.  I mention that because early on, Baby Boomers were taught what the previous generation shared with them in terms of work and loyalty.  You left school, went to work for a company and stayed with them your entire career (at their discretion).  Very rarely did you have any control over what role you filled, whether or how you advanced, how you grew, when you retired, etc.  You were expected to be loyal to the company at all costs.  Very rarely was that loyalty returned.  Some organizations rewarded loyalty by returning loyalty to their people, but most focused on punishing disloyalty and showing very little appreciation for those who were loyal.  One of the reasons I identify with Generation X as well as the Boomers is that Generation X started to reject that.  Generation Y and Millenials even more so.
This topic is also covered in the Ah-Ha! Moment of the Week!

Changing Loyalty Landscape

The landscape of what loyalty means in the business world has changed.  Most people don’t stay with an organization more than about five years before they move on.  You can attribute that to poor work ethic if you wish, or lack of loyalty; but the reality is simply that today’s worker refuses to buy into the one-way street of loyalty.   They expect loyalty to be a two-way street.  If they are loyal to the company they expect some loyalty in return.  Since as a manager or business owner you will almost inevitably have to hire at least some people from Gen Y, you must change your thinking to follow that theme.   Change your focus on what you expect out of loyalty.  You have to be willing to commit resources to help somebody become better at what they do with the knowledge that they most likely will be with you forever and may eventually take what they have learned from you and go somewhere new.  That’s the gamble of investing in people, but the alternative is a bigger gamble with consequences even more significant if you lose (and you will).  So think in terms of how you can maximize your investment over the short term and long term.    If you can get somebody up to speed, maximize what they can produce for you, and maximize their potential over the time period they are with you, then it’s a win-win.

Encouraging Loyalty

So here’s some tips to help you along.
  1. Focus on Relationships — Building relationships with your employees.  Understand their desires, understand their dreams so you can help them move towards that.  Remember the three questions you must answer for them are do you care for me, can you help me, and can I trust you.
  2. Focus on Growth — Invest in your employees with formal training, modeling, mentoring, and providing them with challenges to push them out of their comfort zone.  The more you can help them and move them closer to their potential, the better they are going to produce for you.
  3. Focus on Empowerment — Equip them and authorize them to take the steps they need to take to produce for you.
  4. Focus on Communication — Communicating with them at all times.  ALL TIMES!
  5. Focus on NOW — Forget about forever.  Work on building loyalty for the time they are with you, allowing them to give you the best return while you are giving the best to them.

Here’s the Bonus

goldWhen you invest in your employees and give them time, resources, training, caring, and influence –  show them loyalty – then many of them will be loyal in return.  Not all of them, maybe not even most of them.  But the ones who count.  Remember you are looking for the golden ones anyway; the ones who will yield greatest returns for you.  You are mining for gold.  As Dale Carnegie says,
“Developing your people is a lot like mining for gold.  You have to move a lot of dirt to get to the gold.  But you don’t go looking for the dirt, you go looking for the gold.”

Your Action

  • What will you do today to begin looking for the gold?
  • How can you best invest in your employees for the short and long term?
  • What are you willing to give up to reach that?

Return From Camp

Raven_Knob_signAs I mentioned in the last post, I recently escorted 19 Boy Scouts to summer camp at Raven Knob Scout Reservation near Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  Being as there is generally not a lot for adults to do there, I was able to spend a lot of time observing, reflecting, and planning.  This is our second straight year at this camp and we plan to return next year as well, primarily because this particular camp is so well run.  The amazing part of it is that the program is almost entirely run by Boy Scouts, not adults.  And by almost entirely, I mean that the adults involved are in supporting roles and primarily managerial roles.  The Program Director on down are Scouts running the show!

Now, summer camps by necessity are pretty well-structured and offer lots of programs.  A Boy Scout camp is no different, offering opportunities for the boys to work towards rank advancement or earning merit badges.  All that structure requires a lot of staff members to make it go, providing administration, program, food service, and other elements.  When you have a program that is well-organized and runs smoothly with that many factors and personnel involved, and it is run by boys; well, that deserves a little looking at to find out why.  So, I did.

The Raven Knob Difference

The Camp Director is Keith Bobbitt and my understanding is that his philosophy and approach is what drives the success of this camp.  Keith is what we call a Professional Scouter, an adult who gets paid to do this.  In talking with Keith both last year and this year, I am struck by the awesome leadership he exhibits with the summer camp program.  Keith has developed a vision and core values that are the cornerstone of the program.  Applicants to work summer camp are carefully reviewed and selected.  All staff members are required to attend ongoing training in how the camp runs, their roles, and their leadership.  As camp goes on, Keith and his team identify staff members who exhibit extraordinary competence and leadership.  Those candidates are then provided with additional training and guidance, moved to more challenging roles, and return the next year to serve in higher capacity.

As I mentioned, even the Program Director is a Scout.  He is responsible to lead all the section directors (also mostly all Scouts) and lead daily meetings with adult leaders from all the troops that attend to keep them informed.  If you have an issue during camp, you will speak to Scout to get it resolved.  When I asked Keith Bobbitt about the Program Director role and how he can confidently fill it with a Scout, he told me that the person for the that position has actually been trained over a few years to fill it.  He even confidently boasted to me that when the current Program Director ages out of Scouting or moves on, he has 3-4 others already prepared to take that role on and maintain the consistency in the effectiveness of the camp.

Vision, Empowerment, and a Commitment to Excellence

A few take-aways for me stood out from observing the week, not all of it new but certainly reinforced:

  1. Vision helps everyone perform better.  What’s amazing about Camp Raven Knob is not just that it is run by boys — other Boy Scout camps do that as well — but rather that it is run so smoothly and efficiently by boys.  They were always courteous and helpful.  And while those two words are part of the Scout Law and you would expect them to be that way at every camp; the reality is that not all of them go the extra mile with it like they do at Raven Knob.  I believe it is because the vision of what they want the camp to be is consistently communicated to the staff.  Once they understand the vision, it sets an expectation, which then makes it easier for the staff to behave in a manner consistent with that vision.
  2. Empowerment lets each person contribute and spreads the load.  When you provide the vision, tell them to go make it happen, and get out of their way then most everyone will rise to the occasion and perform based on the vision.  By empowering the Program Director to run things, make decisions, and make changes as necessary, Keith not only allows that Scout to truly contribute to the success of the camp, he is making his own load lighter as well.  When the Program Director allows his section directors to do their jobs and make decisions, he also is developing people and lightening his own load.  I daresay that if the Program Director kept all the decision making to himself, he would go crazy around week 2 or 3.
  3. Boys teach me more than I ever teach them.  They had challenges of bad weather at points, being in a totally unfamiliar environment, hustling around from session to session all day, and yet took the time to thoroughly enjoy themselves and get to know each other better.  I believe our troop firmed up their relationships that week through the shared experiences and the resulting “inside jokes” from that.  Litigious spiders, “are we there yet? Yes, get out!”, playing SetBack, and “Hey, Hi!” will all become cultural components of our troop.  And it reminded me of things I often forget in “the real world”.