Loyalty is a two-way street

Loyalty is a two-way street

“I suppose Loyalty is a two-way street, until it’s not,” I interjected.

I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation while boarding a flight to Sydney between senior members of a Supercars team – heading to Bathurst for this weekend’s Bathurst 500.

“Loyalty, is a two-way street,” one man said to the other.  In this instance they were meaning – to win loyalty, you need to give it.

Of course, I couldn’t help but chime in; “I suppose loyalty is a two-way street, until it’s not,” I interjected.

My point was, when trust is broken between two (or more) parties, you shouldn’t continue to expect loyalty in return.

They curiously accepted my interruption and the three of us got to talking as the line snaked on for boarding.

At the centre of our discussion was the loyalty shown by a major sponsor of a rival Supercar team, who, after riding the highs of a Supercar Series victory, abandoned their sponsorship with this rival team. The backstory is that the rival team’s lead driver quit after a ‘messy and public divorce’ with the rival team’s owners. The sponsors were exposed to this bad press and felt their brand was being tarnished.

Was their abandonment disloyal after sharing in the spoils of victory only weeks earlier?

I think not. Loyalty only works when the both parties hold up their end of the bargain. When one falls short, when they act in ways that damage their reputation, it's not unreasonable to expect the other party to dissociate.

When trust is broken, it erodes one's reputational capital. Conversely, loyalty is bolstered when both parties have strong reputations. Reputational capital is the measure of one's goodwill with others. The higher the reputational capital between parties, the more stress that relationship can take. But only to a point. There comes a time in every relationship when the cost of staying connected outweighs the reputational capital available.

So YES, Loyalty is a two-way street. But some streets are smooth and fast, like a racetrack, whilst others are full of potholes and speed bumps.  

If you expect loyalty -  work hard to build your reputational relationship with your stakeholders and protect it. Or it can be gone in a flash.