November 18, 2009

Yesterday the New Oxford American Dictionary named “unfriend” as the top new word of 2009. Unfriend: to boot someone out of your life, either virtually, in real life, or both. The fact that we need a common word for this act may underscore a growing problem we’re having with loyalty these days.

How loyal are you? To your friends, family, employer, customers, colleagues? If you’re like most people who answer that question, you believe that you’re giving way more loyalty than you get. That’s just one of the surprising conclusions of a study done by two experts on the subject of loyalty. In their book Why Loyalty Matters, Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy explore every dimension of loyalty and how basic it is to lasting happiness and success in our life and work. The book is an exhaustive study of loyalty that begins with the authors’ research in business marketing and extends to just about every kind of relationship you can imagine.

While most of us are keen to notice when loyalty isn’t flowing our way, the authors say we tend to miss our own role in building loyal relationships. We’ve trained ourselves to shop for the best possible deal. So we scour the earth for the lowest price, but mourn the demise of a business we loved, yet didn’t patronize, never realizing that our behavior was part of its death. It’s this sort of disconnect that has the potential to undermine a virtue that’s the bedrock of humanity and personal character. Without loyalty, all bonds fall apart because we have no reason to hang together.

A certain amount of self-sacrifice and self-examination is a key part of building lasting relationships. “If we always see ourselves as more loyal than everyone around us, the problem will continue,” Aksoy says. “To improve we have to examine what we’re focusing on and recognize how we connect with others.”

Why should I be loyal when others haven’t reciprocated? Aksoy answers the question by comparing loyalty to love. “You don’t give up on love when your heart is broken,” she said. “To get more, you have to give more.”

Sooner or later everyone we know will disappoint us in some way. How we handle those disappointments is a predictor of our satisfaction and fulfillment in relationships at work and in our personal lives.

The authors acknowledge the fact that all loyalty isn’t good. In situations that are toxic or destructive, for example, sometimes the most loyal thing you can do is disconnect. In any context, we have to know where our loyalties are and whether our patterns are constructive. To help readers to appraise their own loyalty behaviors and satisfaction, Why Loyalty Matters includes access to a very useful online tool called the Loyalty Advisor. Using a password that’s published in the back of the book, you can seek 360 degree feedback by inviting up to 10 colleagues and friends to anonymously assess how you present yourself. One week after completing the assessment and submitting the e-mail addresses of your friends, family, or colleagues, you’ll receive a copy of your assessment report.

If you don’t buy the book and take the assessment, here’s a simple, but profound exercise the authors suggest to assess whether your actions are building loyalty where it matters most: 
  • Ask yourself how much time you spend at work, with family, with friends, for causes you believe in, or doing nothing. 
  • How much time goes to things that inevitably hurt you, worsen your perspective, or ruin your day? 
  • How much of what you do with your time actually leaves you feeling uplifted and strong? 
  • When it comes to your important loyalties, are you allocating time for them?

1 comment:

1st Impression Consulting, Inc. said...

Thanks for sharing! I think we forget about loyalty with social media. We tend to get caught up with growing "our" own network, we forget about respecting others and being loyal.