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The 3 C's of Building Team Loyalty and Engagement

© 2023 Anna Barnhill. All rights reserved.
Original Version of article was published in Forbes Magazine March 2023 edition

In the ever-evolving landscape of organizational dynamics, loyalty from team members stands as an invaluable asset. Loyalty, in this context, signifies an employee's emotional commitment, wholehearted dedication of energy, and tireless efforts towards the betterment of their team and organization as a whole. Recent data underscores the urgency and importance of cultivating a culture of loyalty within companies. According to the Gallup State of the Global Workforce survey, a mere 21% of employees reported being genuinely engaged. More alarmingly, over half of employees grapple with feelings of being undervalued, leading to a cascade of negative emotions, including worry, stress, and even anger. These emotional struggles exact a toll on an individual's physical health, engagement levels, productivity, and decision-making abilities.

Adding to this, McKinsey's research spotlights the pivotal role of nonfinancial recognition, driving over half of employee engagement. This revelation echoes my own findings, suggesting that when individuals do not feel genuinely valued or respected by their leaders, their sense of engagement dwindles, often giving way to disengagement, resentment, and eventually attrition. Gallup further solidifies this perspective, stating that a staggering 70% of the variance in team loyalty and engagement hinges solely on the actions and behaviors of the manager. In essence, the onus of nurturing loyalty falls squarely on the shoulders of leadership.

The 3 C's Of Team Loyalty: Care, Curiosity, and Courage

Loyalty and engagement are intrinsically linked, forming two sides of the same coin. When team members exhibit loyalty towards their leader and align with company goals, they are more likely to be engaged, go the extra mile, and offer their utmost dedication. Without fostering a culture of loyalty, organizations risk facing a grim reality characterized by low engagement levels, diminished productivity, high absenteeism, and elevated turnover rates.

Drawing from my extensive experience coaching leaders, I've identified three fundamental leadership competencies that are instrumental in nurturing loyalty: Care, Curiosity, and Courage.

Care: Lead With Empathy And Compassion

Demonstrating empathy and genuine concern lies at the heart of building team loyalty. It entails investing time in actively listening to team members, understanding their emotions and experiences, and offering compassion when they make mistakes. This approach also necessitates going above and beyond, ensuring that employees feel valued and respected. When leaders exude this caring attitude, it creates an inclusive, positive work environment, one in which team members can flourish and deliver their absolute best. Furthermore, consistency is key when it comes to care. Any hint of irregularity in leadership style can sow seeds of confusion and mistrust.

Curiosity: Demonstrate Genuine Interest And Understanding

Curiosity involves cultivating an open-minded approach and genuinely engaging with the perspectives of others. Leaders should strive to foster an environment that encourages exploration of different viewpoints, igniting the flames of creativity and paving the way for innovative solutions. Asking questions to gain insights into the team's objectives and challenges is also vital. A deeper understanding of team dynamics helps pinpoint opportunities for enhancement, propelling both individual and collective success.

Courage: Act With Authenticity And Assertiveness

Courage is a potent blend of authenticity and assertiveness. It encompasses being authentic and sincere in interactions with the team, willingly embracing their perspectives, and transparently sharing personal feelings and experiences. Authentic expression from a leader fosters an environment where team members feel safe to voice their thoughts and ideas. Leading with courage also entails assuming full responsibility for one's actions, making tough decisions, and taking calculated risks. These actions often unlock new vistas of opportunity and growth.

How Can You Integrate 3Cs of Team Loyalty into your Leadership Style?

I believe even a great information without integration steps is doomed to be forgotten. So, here are some practical strategies for using 3Cs competencies to build team loyalty:

How to use care to build team loyalty

1.    Show genuine care. Sit down with each individual and gain a deeper insight into what your team’s needs and wants are. What drives them to wake up in the morning and who are they inspire to be.

2.    Practice self-compassion and self-care. You cannot give what you don’t have.

3.    Show respect and appreciation. It is important to show respect for each team member and recognize their contributions. This will help create a more positive working environment and foster loyalty.

4.    Promote atmosphere of trust and safety: foster open and honest communication, where everyone is encouraged to speak up and have their ideas heard without fear of judgment or criticism.

5.    Celebrate success and have your teams back when they fail. Encourage them to extract valuable lessons and grow from the experience. Failure is an essential part of success.

How to use curiosity to build team loyalty

1.    Avoid assumptions and ask questions to help you understand their point, not to find a proof that you are right.

2.    Let go of ego and the need to be right. Before saying something ask yourself Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it worth it? Remember Ego is not your amigo.

3.    Listen without judgement: It's important to listen to what your team members have to say without judgement. This can help you better understand their perspectives and build trust.

4.    Look for new perspectives: Curiosity involves looking for new perspectives and solutions. It's important to be open to new ideas and solutions and to be willing to challenge the status quo.

5.    Encourage dialogue: Encouraging dialogue between team members is important for building team loyalty. It's a great way to foster collaboration and creativity. 

How to use courage to build team loyalty

1.    Gain clarity on your values and use them as a guide in decision making

2.    Be genuine and honest in your interactions with your team members. This can help you build trust and respect.

3.    Seek feedback and acknowledge mistakes: Being open to feedback is important for building team loyalty. It shows that you value your team members' opinions and are open to their suggestions. Acknowledging mistakes is a great way to build trust and respect. It shows that you're willing to take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes.

4.    Be clear and direct in your communication, set clear expectations. It is important to set clear expectations for team members and ensure that everyone is on the same page. This will help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal.

5.    Entrust your team with responsibility and give them autonomy to execute. Delegating responsibility requires trust.

6.    Encourage others to speak up and voice other opinions when necessary. This can help your team members feel heard and respected.

Measuring Success and Sustaining Team Loyalty

To gauge the success of your efforts in cultivating team loyalty, look no further than performance metrics. Is your team consistently meeting its goals? Are members collaborating effectively to tackle challenges? Do they feel at ease sharing their feelings, concerns, or requests for assistance? These indicators collectively point to the presence of a loyal team.

Taking Action to Build Loyalty 

Loyalty is essential for a healthy and productive work environment, and it all starts with fostering genuine connections. As a leader, it's important to build a strong sense of loyalty among your team members to foster collaboration, creativity, and productivity. One of the best ways to do this is through a genuine care, curiosity, and courage. These three attributes can help leaders create a team of individuals who are eager to learn, support each other, and take risks that will help the team succeed. It's important for leaders to recognize that loyalty is not built overnight. It takes time and effort to build loyalty among team members and it all depends on leaders willingness to have courage to show up authentically, work on self-development, show loyalty and put trust in their team. To do this, leaders must first develop strong relationship with self and learn how to lead themselves effectively. 

I strongly believe that you cannot buy your team’s loyalty, it can only be earned through consistent leadership effort. And if you want your team to trust you, you need to start with self-inquiry. First ask yourself do you put trust in your team in a first place? What leadership traits you show daily that make you a trustworthy leader?  What behaviors do you exhibit that communicate loyalty to your team and organization? Do you show genuine concern about well-being of your team? Do you invest in your team growth and success? Are you taking full responsibility for your actions? 

By using care, curiosity, authenticity, courage, and assertiveness, you can create an environment of trust and respect.  If there is one thing you will take away from this article is lean on 3Cs: am I approaching this situation with a curious mind, caring heart, and courageous gut? And if the answer is no, what do I need to adjust in my attitude and show up in this situation with more authenticity, empathy, and care.

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