Many entrepreneurs talk of loyalty in business partnerships, staff loyalty (or lack of), and loyalty in relationships. These founders expect people to be loyal to them and often get upset when they are not.
If this sounds like you, think of how much frustration or pain it caused you to hold on to the fantasy that people are loyal to you. How disappointed you’ve been in others when they did not live up to your expectations. Well, sorry to point out the harsh reality, but no one was born to please you and live up to your unrealistic expectations of them– not your kids, your staff, your partner, and definitely not your customers.
Expecting someone to live their life to meet or exceed your expectations is, at best, naive and, at worst, arrogance. Expecting someone to be loyal to you is like expecting a fish to bark and then being annoyed when it opened its mouth but nothing but air came out. But that’s what a fish does, all while you’re thinking, damn you for not barking when I wanted you to.
It might seem somewhat sad to come to this fact, like when your kids leave home. But once you’re used to your kids leaving home, you now have a lot of space and time in your life to focus on yourself. You accept it because you accept your kids lead their own life, not yours.
It is the same when holding on to the romanticism or delusion that people are loyal to you. If someone applies for a job and gives one-third of their 24 hours a day to work ‘for’ you, they are not working ‘for’ you. They are working for themselves. They are working to pay their bills, buy their free time, and progress in their career.
It is their career progression, not yours. If you are married to someone, they may be more married to their (your) kids, or their career, more than to you. No one wants to accept that kids or a career could be more important to their partner than you, but this is often the case.
And I think this is actually how it should be.
You see, we all have a hierarchy of values. Selfish things are most important to us. Each one of us has our own, individual, unique values hierarchy; even twins have different values.
If my career is my highest, a family might be yours. Your partner may have business as their highest value, you might have freedom. We will also consciously and unconsciously prioritize our highest values, selfishly, above all else– and above everyone else.
We are only loyal to our own values.
And we need to be. Our survival depends on it. We have a selfish gene, and it’s a damn good thing we do or we’d all be lemmings. Put your own gas mask on first.
If others appear loyal to us, it’s because they meet or align with our highest values. We have things in common. Sometimes (often) temporarily, like when someone works for you for 3 years, but then sets up in competition against you. Sometimes it’s for decades, like with a marriage or senior partner.
Letting go of this delusion of loyalty towards you and becoming humble to others’ selfish needs and values actually makes us more powerful, and paradoxically more able to align loyalty and create influence.
Simply understand that others are selfishly loyal to their values, and care enough about them to find their highest values. Then align your interests and influence to meet their values, not your values, and they will spontaneously appear loyal to you, because they are loyal to their values.
Help someone progress their career with you and they will not leave. Help a customer get great service and their needs met and they won’t go with a cheaper option. Help your partner meet their highest needs and values and they will help you meet yours because we become selfless when our selfish needs are met– but only when they are met.
Great pain exists in the size of the gap between delusion and reality. That’s why ‘disloyalty’ can hurt so much. But no one is disloyal to you, they are only loyal to themselves. They owe you nothing. Accepting this narrows the pain gap.
You can even experience great empathy in this level of understanding.
I used to experience much pain when people would set up in competition against me. I’d given them a platform. Taught them all they knew. Showed them the way. And this is what they do to me?
Here’s the irony. I’d done exactly the same to my first employer. Once it had happened to me I had empathy for him. Once I had empathy for him, I was able to see the cycle of life and have empathy for the many who’ve set up their own business off the back of mine. I let go of the delusion of loyalty, which not only held me back from fully training staff members I thought would screw me, but I held onto the resentment for many years after.
In fact, it gave me deep gratitude to think I was able to help my competitors on their journey. I was a part of their success, and that is a great gift. They gave me one-third of their 24 hours a day for 2, 3 or 5 years– what an honor to be chosen by them to give this gift.
I’d far rather have trained and mentored many of my competitors than someone else do it because I know them better and can claim some of that credit. Plus, I’d have fired them in a heartbeat if I’d found out they weren’t loyal to me, so how is that loyal to them? It’s not, because I too am not loyal to anyone other than my highest values.
So, in summary, discover people’s values and their selfish loyalties by asking them what’s most important to them. Listen, take notes, and link their highest values to your desired actions, influence and loyalties, and you create loyalty. Not to you, but to themselves, which is far more powerful.
If you don’t risk anything, you risk everything.