About two months ago, my children presented their Christmas lists to me. My little girl’s list was full of dolls, books, and crafts, while my son’s list consisted merely of video games and football jerseys (both expensive items, I might add, and apparently very typical for his age). As I looked over their carefully prepared wish lists, I wondered how much of the stuff they want will ever get played with or used more than a month after they open it.
Every year, I struggle to find the perfect gifts for them – ones they will cherish, adore, and use for many months – and maybe years – to come. At times, my husband and I have gotten lucky (e.g., the iPad, which gets utilized every single day for schoolwork, yet still gives them joy during down-time). At other times, our gifts have created little monsters (e.g., the Wii, which could potentially turn one of our children into a zombie). But most of the time, the gifts are played with for a few weeks or months and then make their way into the toy chest or onto a shelf, collecting dust and slipping out of their minds.
We’ve all heard the phrases, “The greatest things in life are free,” and “The best gifts are the ones that keep on giving.” These may seem overused, and I am sure many toymakers and retailers across the world would disagree, but the best gifts we can bestow on one another – children, spouses, colleagues, employees, and customers alike – are actually free and really do keep on giving… Patience, respect, guidance, constructive feedback… all of these are gifts, so to speak, that will enrich both the lives of the givers and receivers, while building loyalty along the way.
As sales managers, we are often the givers of these intangible gifts to our teams, and while team members may not actually thank you for exhibiting patience with them while they learn a new skill or tell you how much they appreciate the constructive feedback you give them after a sales call, they are appreciative and will be more loyal to you as a result.
In the article Declining Employee Loyalty: A Casualty of the New Workplace, Wharton Management Professor, Adam Cobb, says, “When you are talking about loyalty in the workplace, you have to think about it as a reciprocal exchange." In other words, as sales managers, we can’t expect employees to be loyal to us, if we don’t demonstrate loyalty to them. The article goes on to quote James Harter, Chief Scientist, Workplace Management and Well-Being, for Gallup: “If you're looking for a silver bullet, it is the quality of the relationship between an employee and his or her manager that determines the overall level of employee engagement. Good companies develop a growing list of great managers over time.... It's local level teams and how they are connected together by leaders and managers" that have the most impact.
So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that we should spend a little more time each day consciously working towards building this loyalty with our teams? Be a little more patient, show your teams the respect that you expect them to show you, guide them and give them constructive feedback to help them improve and grow as individuals. You’ll be amazed at the “gifts” you get in return, day-in and day-out, from your team.
As for my children, I am sure they will be delighted at their wish-list items under the tree this holiday, but whether they realize it or not, I will continue to shower them with the gifts that keep on giving, each and every day of the year.
For more on employee loyalty, read Declining Employee Loyalty: A Casualty of the New Workplace at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2995#.T6rq347zozQ.wordpress.