I come from a blue collar upbringing. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. My Father worked for the Chicago Board of Education, as an Engineer in a Chicago Public School. He was responsible for keeping the school warm, well maintained and in tip-top shape. He was the best at his trade and took pride in his work. He never cut corners and never took a sick day, in over 35 years of work. I learned about commitment, responsibility and work ethic from my Father. Through 30 years of work, I have never taken a sick day and never will. It’s a point of pride at this point, as silly as that may sound to some. My Mother was a surgical nurse and was committed to her profession. I learned compassion, empathy and sensitivity from my Mother. Between both parents, my core beliefs were built based on observation and admiration.
My parent were both very loyal to their employers. They were passionate about their trade and the organization which they represented and wouldn’t dream of going elsewhere. They both retired, having worked for only one employer. Those were the days, when there was commitment both ways. Boy, have times changed. Today, we live in a different world. A time where we are focused on the here and now and more focused on “what’s in it for me,” versus being driven by the goals of the organization. As each new generation develops it’s unique personality, we slip further and further away from “we” and more closely to “me.” Put simply, it is the reality today and will only amplify over time.
So, how do we build loyalty in this new world? How do we get back to a time where people are proud of where they work and pass on inbound calls from recruiters? In one word…Leadership. Studies show that people leave companies due to their relationship (or lack thereof) with their direct supervisor. I believe that the front-line manager sits at the most prominent position of influence. They deal with the daily (and often personal) challenges of their people, while having things thrust upon them, by their supervisors. The front-line manager is the key to the health and progress of an organization. The front-line manager is the key to reducing churn and building loyalty. The front-line manager is often overlooked and taken for granted, when they must be prioritized and held in the highest regard.
I believe that life is about connections. Our best salespeople and best sales leaders, have a way of connecting with those they serve. Their focus is on uncovering the needs of their people and committing themselves to ensuring that they meet the needs of those individuals. I have always embraced the principle that it is “all about the people.” If sales leaders focus on their people and serve them well, their employees will, in turn, reciprocate with passion and loyalty. Effective leadership lies in a leader’s ability to understand who they serve and serve them with full commitment. It means connecting, empathizing, finding common ground, emphasizing the individual’s “fit” and responsibility to the organization, selling the vision, eliminating “us” versus “them” thinking, holding people accountable to their goals, challenging reps to rise above, challenging employees to stretch and having leaders internalizing their rep’s goals as their own. When a leader does this, they create loyalty and those recruiter calls fall on deaf ears. We must all understand and commit to those who we serve. We must make their goals, our goals. We must be passionate about our people. We must lead from the front.