I don’t know about you, but as an entrepreneur, I treat my company and my employees as my family and friends. That doesn’t mean I am easy on them or any less demanding, but they understand how I feel about them personally and how important they are in helping execute on the goals defined in our mission statement. In larger companies, it is impossible to do everything companywide, but it can be done successfully in teams. To build loyalty, I have seen RECSOLU benefit from the items below.

1. Do unto others as you would like done to you
We all learned this one in kindergarten, but this rule stands true at companies of any size. Nothing will discourage staff more than being treated like staff. Every person has a different story, and getting to know them on a personal level enables you to learn intricacies. A simple adjustment of tone can mean the difference between building loyalty vs. angst.

2. Get in the trenches
In football, the leader of a team is often the quarterback, but he generally doesn’t get the respect of the entire team until he participates in the dirty work and show his toughness. How will your team fight for you, if you aren’t willing to do the same? If your team is staying late or working on the weekend to complete a project, stay with them and offer up your assistance however they could best benefit. Sometimes it means manual labor, picking up food or drinks, or just staying on-call as soon the team is ready for you. These actions help build trust, as it shows leadership supporting their teams.

3. Surprise them
When you are in a relationship over an extended period of time, your spouse or partner may talk about boredom and how he/she wishes to be surprised every now and then. Whether you have flowers delivered, a date night, or fun vacation, these changes of pace create excitement. This is no different with your team. After a certain period, work feels like work no matter how interesting it might be. Adding an element of surprise keeps teams engaged. At RECSOLU, we have a number of spontaneous events and change of pace activities for this very reason.

4. Show appreciation
Everyone wants to be appreciated. I believe the vast majority of people are very good and decent. Often times it is more rewarding to people to be appreciated than to receive payment. When you pay a salary, you expect B-level work in return. When you receive excellence and extra effort, showing your appreciation goes a long way. There are many different ways to accomplish this, and they can be as simple as a personal thank you via email or IM, or as intricate as an awards ceremony. At RECSOLU we show our appreciation in a variety of ways including recognition amongst the company at our weekly company-wide meeting, leader perks, personal conversations, and sending out positive feedback from our clients to the entire team.

5. Have an enemy or rival
If you were a student at Michigan, you probably disliked Ohio State. If you work for a big four firm, you look at the others a bit differently. Michael Jordan used to make up things that defenders would say about him, just to pump himself up. Even Steve Jobs put up a pirate flag above the office building for his Macintosh team as they were at odds with other business units in Apple. Fans loyal to specific teams or brands also often root against the rival. At RECSOLU, we have several rival companies (they might not know it, but we do), and it is apparent to each business unit we have. Last year I was at a baseball game and saw an executive of a rival firm kicking back, drinking, and enjoying life. I took several pictures and sent them to my team making sure they knew the competition didn’t respect them enough to work hard that day.

6. Trust them
This one isn’t easy for everyone, but I have always trusted people until they prove me wrong. Yes, I have been disappointed before and will likely be many times again in the future, but overall I have gained a lot more than I have given up. Think of all the people in your life whom you trust. These are the people who are probably the most loyal in your life as well.

7. Develop them
I love how Apple is never afraid of cannibalization of their products. As a manager, this is always a short-term financial fear, but if you don’t innovate, your competition will. At some companies, they fear losing their employees so much that they discourage them from participating in networking or professional events. They fear that by developing employee skills that the company will have to pay higher salaries, and that other companies will begin to poach. This should be a short-term fear as well, but like products, other companies will innovate and give your employees opportunities to grow. At RECSOLU, we have quarterly employee development meetings with defined goals and action items. We promote local tech meetups and encourage active participation in networking groups like Built in Chicago, Technori, and 1871 speaker days. Developing talent builds loyalty, as it is an active investment in them personally.

Not all of these will work with your management style or goals, so please add what has helped your organization.