I recently had a request to write an article on building crew loyalty and respect. From the standpoint of an established officer with a proven history, this concept isn’t very difficult however; being a new or acting officer can leave you at a major disadvantage in this crucial area. The question remains: how do you establish and build these key components needed for proper team development? Although there are many books and articles you could read, I have found the solution to be much simpler.
The golden rule I was taught as a child is often the fix to many of a company officer’s problems. “Treat others the way you want to be treated!” When I look at building respect the first step is to give respect. To build loyalty the first step is to give loyalty. Depending on your competence level and confidence, the time needed to see a return of that investment will vary however, if you don’t initiate the process don’t expect your peers or subordinates to do the work.
The second part to this which if you are already having problems may be a little late to consider is setting up the right attitude before you become a leader. The way you follow your superiors will often be the way your people will follow you. If you are a good follower and become a leader, the ability to demand higher of your subordinates will appear less hypocritical and genuine. Take the example of a guy/girl that is always bad mouthing their leaders behind their backs. When they become a leader, what precedent have they set as acceptable behavior? You cannot expect someone to get your back when they know you are always stabbing people in the back yourself.
Here are some things you can do to facilitate building respect and loyalty with your peers and crew:
- Act with INTEGRITY, Speak with INTEGRITY, Listen with INTEGRITY! INTEGRITY, INTEGRITY, INTEGRITY!!!
- Explain your intended goals and how you intend to get there.
- Immediately start to consider and correct the way you are treating people.
- Seek out classes and opportunities to better yourself to show you deserve the loyalty and respect.
- Do not partake in gossip! You cannot expect loyalty if you are talking behind someone’s back.
- Maintain an “open book” personality, what you see is what you get, no hidden motives or agendas.
- Stand up for your crew and yourself! If you make a mistake own it, if your crew makes a mistake, own it!
- Handle things at the lowest level possible, no one likes a tattle tale especially when the tattle tale is their leader.
- If someone tells you something you have to report, tell them you have to report it and give them the chance to report it with you rather than throwing them under the bus.
- Know who you can trust when discussing issues (hint: when in doubt you should be able to go to a higher rank).
- Become a stable person. It is hard to back someone who is never in the same place emotionally, physically, or intellectually.
- Stick with it because it will take longer to build loyalty and respect after you have already lost it.
Like any other relationship, building the loyalty and respect needed to have a functional team will take time. The process in never ending and even the best leaders can destroy years of work with a single mistake. In my opinion, he best way to have the crew you always wanted is to be honest, keep an open line of communication, and avoid damaging the progress you have already made. Integrity is key to every step and often begins with an internal look. If you can be honest with yourself, it will make being honest with everyone else easier. Beyond that just follow the golden rule “Treat others like you want to be treated!”