You look at your employee piercingly, and say, “I want your loyalty!”
Your employee looks confused and responds, “What do you mean? Are you saying that I’ve not been loyal? Can you give me an example so I can better understand what you are saying?”
“No,” you say, “we’ll just get into a long discussion about who said what. Just be loyal!”
Your employee leaves totally puzzled and questions what he or she might have done or not done.
Do you think you have gained your employee’s loyalty by demanding it? And how do you think your employee will now interact with your customers?
When I think back to the many lessons I learned from my parents, one that resonates with me most deals with trust and loyalty. What they taught me was that you have to earn loyalty — it is not something that we can demand. I also learned that a basic step toward earning loyalty was to develop deep and trusting relationships. This lesson has stayed with me and I have done my best to live by these rules.
I am dismayed and troubled, though, by how often this very basic rule is forgotten in the business world today — and also dismayed by the amount of damage produced in both the employee/employer relationship and the customer/business relationship when this basic rule is ignored.
Trust is built by executing one transaction at a time! It grows slowly, but without fail as a result of your consistent actions.
However, consistency, while necessary, is insufficient by itself. You, the employer and small-business owner, build trust and loyalty by being competent, by proactively solving problems and addressing issues, and by not taking advantage of others.
Think of what you yourself want and you will have a clear understanding of what your employees and customers are looking for: They need confidence that you will keep your promises and claims made; they need integrity and consistency with a known set of values, beliefs, and practices; they need clear expectations; and they require that you consistently illustrate your concern for their well-being and exhibit respectful treatment of others.
Yes, it is often the basic lessons we learned as a child that provide the best guidance and ensure our success. For Kaua‘i, there is added value to ensuring that we follow these rules, as they are consistent with our host culture and help to create the unique character of our island.
As business owners, community members, employees, employers and customers, we need to remember — and practice — these basics. You cannot buy loyalty and trust, nor can you demand it. But you can earn it.
• Diana Shaw is the Kaua‘i center director for the Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center Network.