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How To Inspire Unwavering Loyalty In Your Employees

August 29, 2017

I have no idea.

Sorry. I’m not trying to do the click-bait. And, if you talk to people who’ve worked for me over the years, they will tell you that I’m good at inspiring loyalty. But, I have no idea how to do it. But, I’ve seen it. And I try to learn by example.

I was 23 years old and attending Brigham Young University. I joined the ROTC program. I wanted to be a soldier. (That didn’t work out, but that’s another story.) In addition to the normal ROTC duties, I volunteered for the competition team. It was called the Ranger Challenge team. Mostly, it involved lots of extra PT, and long runs in the early morning dark in and around Provo, Utah.

On our runs we had unmarked maps of Provo and at any moment the coach, Major Turbiville would stop and ask us to identify where we were on the map. I was a fast runner, so I was normally one of the first people he asked. Fortunately, I’m good with maps. Not this day. We were running through a neighborhood that appeared as a empty field on our 20 year old maps.

Alright, Bliss, where are we?

Ah. . .here?

Wrong. Drop and give me 20.

In my defense, no one knew where we were. All ten of us got assigned 20 pushups. Actually, for some strange reason the Army does a 4-count pushup. So, we essentially did 40 pushups each. And the major wasn’t waiting. He kept running. We pounded out the pushups and then rushed to catch up with him and hoped we’d soon run back into the section of printed streets on the map.

Eventually, we turned back toward the field house. We ran about 10 miles each morning, so the pace was fairly easy. Again, I was running at the front, just behind the major. He asked me for my map. I passed it to him and he studied it while we jogged through the early morning pre-dawn.

I was wrong.

Excuse me, sir?

About our last position. I thought we were farther East. We were actually just on the West edge of the field.

If it’s any consolation, sir, that still wasn’t the spot I picked.

The major was quiet all the way back to the field house. As we cooled down before hitting the showers, he called the team together.

I made a mistake. I messed up that last location. Now, I can’t take back the 20 pushups I made you do. So, the best I can do is match them.

We weren’t sure what to make of his admission. But, apparently he wasn’t expecting us to respond. Without another word, he dropped down and started doing pushups. And he kept doing them. He did 200. Twenty for each man on the team. You and I would count it as 400. Looking back, I remember it distinctly. He didn’t stop until he was done.

There wasn’t a man there who wouldn’t have run through a wall for him after that.

I’ve often thought of that lesson. If you’re the boss, do you hold yourself to the same standards you hold your team to? Do you look for opportunities to show your team that you are willing to do the hard things that you ask them to do? Do you admit your mistakes?

And yet, I’m not sure that answering those questions correctly will inspire loyalty. However, I know answering them wrong will destroy loyalty. Like I said, I try to learn by example.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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