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A New Breed of Loyalty

There are many who say that loyalty in the corporate world is dead forever. I could not disagree with them more. The kind of corporate loyalty that was based on hanging around for a certain number of years in order to get a pension and benefits for the rest of your life may be dead, but I think that both employees and employers are better off that it is. It wasn't good for people or companies then, and it isn't good for people or companies now. I do, however, believe that the corporate world desperately needs to foster and encourage a new and more evolved form of corporate loyalty.

This new breed of loyalty will be built on the principle of adding value. An employee is responsible for adding value to the life of a company, and a company is responsible for adding value to the life of an employee. This is the great unspoken contract that exists between all employees and employers.

There is an inescapable financial component to the principle of adding value in business. A potential employee should be able to walk into an interview and confidently say, “Hire me and I will generate three…five…seven times more revenue than it costs to employ me.” This is one of the ways employees are responsible for adding value. Part of adding value in a corporate environment means generating revenue or supporting someone else so they can generate revenue.

As I walked out of a keynote presentation several months ago, the president of the company took me aside and said, “I just want to thank you for adding value. I know this is going to help my people take it to the next level.” His words gave me pause. People often say, “Great talk,” but as I reflected on what he had said to me, it crystallized a realization that when I speak at corporate events, I'm not there just to motivate, entertain, and inspire. I aim to do those things, but I am there to add value — to help that company and its employees thrive. That is why companies invite me to speak, and if I cannot do that, I cannot reasonably expect them to invite me back.

A new breed of corporate loyalty is both possible and necessary. We simply need to change our expectations. No company can keep an employee that doesn't add value and help that company become the-best-version-of-itself. Simple economics demands that such an employee cannot remain. At the same time, a company cannot reasonably expect an employee to be loyal, if that company's demands and expectations consistently lead an employee to become a lesser-version-of-himself or herself.

The new breed of loyalty will be based upon an understanding between employees and companies of one another's purpose — to become the-best-version-of-themselves. Some may scoff and beg this conversation to return to reality — but consider the companies that find themselves on Fortune's elite list of the best companies to work for. Of course they strive for and achieve better than average profits, but if you glance down the list of criteria, you'll discover a list of company initiatives that, directly or indirectly, help employees become better-versions-of-themselves. These companies believe that if they help their employees become better-versions-of-themselves, the company will necessarily become a-better-version-of-itself.

Walk through the hallways of these companies and you will see a highly evolved form of corporate loyalty emerging. These companies understand that if they help their employees achieve their purpose as individuals, the employees will in turn be more passionate about helping the corporation achieve its purpose and goals. Both sides recognize that the company has to make a profit in order to continue, and both sides are willing to commit to the pursuit of that profit.

This new breed of corporate loyalty is the clay from which a highly evolved and cohesive type of team can be built and managed. The “us versus them” mentality that has been fostered for hundreds of years in the workplace desperately needs to be replaced by a spirit of dynamic collaboration. This level of collaboration can only be achieved when both managers and employees are convinced that each has the others' best interests in mind.

Sooner or later, both a company and its employees will gravitate toward their respective purposes. If they cannot do this in collaboration, employees will begin to disengage or self-destruct and the organization will pay a huge price.

When a company's culture opposes its employees' purpose (that is, hinders employees from becoming the-best-version-of-themselves), the employees will consciously or subconsciously oppose the company's goals and objectives. This in turn will prevent the company from achieving its purpose (that is, becoming the-best-version-of-itself ). The individual purposes of employees and companies are inseparably linked.

A manager's role is to organize employee effort for the attainment of an organization's goals and purpose. In the past, managers have relied heavily on the stick and the carrot. Now it is time to discover the awesome effectiveness of management by dreams.

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