An elderly woman had always wanted to travel abroad. Now that she was getting on in years, she thought the time had come, but she had never even been out of the country. So she began by going in person to the passport office and asking how long it would take to have one issued.

“You must take the loyalty oath first,” responded the passport clerk. “Raise your right hand, please. Do you swear to defend the Constitution of this country against all its enemies, domestic or foreign?”

The woman’s face became pale and her voice trembled as she asked in a small voice, “All by myself?”

Loyalty is what makes for great people, winning teams and top-flight business organizations.

Former Treasury Secretary Donald Regan said, “You’ve got to give loyalty down, if you want loyalty up.” I have a different way of saying this. I firmly believe that respect is earned, honesty is appreciated, love is gained and loyalty is returned.

In February, Americans celebrated the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice,” when the American hockey team beat the heavily favored Russians and then Finland to win the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N. Y. My friend Herb Brooks was the coach. Herb’s players all cited his loyalty to them and to the idea that they could win it all as the reason for what many call the greatest upset in sports history. This underdog hockey team became an American legend, all because of inexhaustible loyalty. Herb believed that blood makes you related, but loyalty makes you family.

In years past, when a person landed a “dream job,” that person tended to stick around until the gold watch ceremony. That may have represented some level of loyalty, but, often, it was better described as longevity. A safe place, a comfortable situation. Loyalty to the organization was assumed.

Today, it’s more challenging to build loyalty when employees move around so much. But loyalty is always important. I still believe a person can job-hop regularly and maintain tremendous loyalty to the company that they represent.

I personally value loyalty over longevity. I would rather have a terrific employee work for us for a few years and be true to our company values than someone who still shows up every day, punches the clock and hangs around just to collect a paycheck.

Being committed to the job that one is hired to do is the mark of loyalty. Moving on is not disloyal if it means a promotion we can’t offer or a desire to use a different skill set. A person can remain loyal to an earlier employer when working in a new job. In fact, I hear regularly from former employees who let me know that their experience at our company provided them with a great start and helped to launch a successful career. They are grateful and will remain loyal to us.

When a new employee is hired at MackayMitchell, management expects commitment to the company and in return treats every employee as a valuable family member. We have a number of employees who have celebrated 20, 25, 30 and 40 years with us because we practice what we preach. But, believe me, if the loyalty factor appeared to be missing, we would re-evaluate that relationship. We need committed people to continue to provide outstanding service and produce the best envelopes in the industry.

We need loyalty to be winners. Former IBM Chairman John Akers said: “We’ve all heard the shortsighted businessmen attribute a quote to Vince Lombardi, ‘Winning is not the most important thing; it’s the only thing.’ Well, that’s a good quote for firing up a team, but as an overarching philosophy it’s just baloney. I much prefer another Lombardi quote. He expected his players to have three kinds of loyalty: to God, to their families and to the Green Bay Packers, in that order.”

As a native Minnesotan who has spent my life in the shadow of the Packers and their fiercely loyal fans, I can attest to their loyalty — no matter where they happen to be on game day!

Mackay’s Moral: Get a lock on loyalty — it’s one of the keys to success.

 

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.