By Alan Graner
During the Revolutionary War it was the custom to suspend hostilities during winter because conditions were simply too harsh to fight or to move equipment.
And so it was in December 1777 when the 11,000-man Continental Army moved into winter quarters in Valley Forge, just north of Philadelphia.
As the men settled into the cold and snow, the officer corps were billeted in the fine homes of Philadelphia’s well-to-do. As the men scrounged for food, the officers feasted on fine dinners and wines. As the men wound cloth around their feet, the officers danced in their fancy uniforms. While the men froze, the officers lived in warm comfort.
Yes, almost every officer enjoyed the good life…except one. That officer remained in his tent at Valley Forge enduring the cold and the deprivations with his men. He spent his time begging the Continental Congress for food and clothing. He sent patrols out to scrounge what food and clothing could be spared. He wandered the grounds, encouraging his troops, giving them hope.
Every one of the 11,000 soldiers was keenly aware that General George Washington was doing everything in his power to take care of them.
During that six-month stay, an estimated 2,000-2,500 men died, mostly from disease.
When the snows finally melted and the mud roads once again became passable, Washington’s half-starved, half-clothed troops marched forth to engage the world’s most powerful army—an army that had not known defeat: the Redcoats.
From the “shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord in 1775 until the final peace treaty in 1783, George Washington’s troops were consistently out-manned and out-gunned.
And even though Washington lost battle after battle, his troops never surrendered.
They were prepared to march through the gates of Hell for their beloved leader.
All too often company executives expect loyalty from their employees without giving loyalty in return.
They ask employees to make sacrifices “for the good of the company” and then think nothing of laying them off.
They accept large bonuses while giving employees small or no raises.
They operate a top-down management style while forgetting some of the most valuable insights for improving company efficiency and profit come from the men and women in the trenches.
Many executives refuse to further employee education and/or training with the excuse they’ll spend all that time and money and the employees will take those new skills elsewhere.
Many executives are unaware of poor middle managers who discourage and denigrate their subordinates or even bully them.
And then management acts surprised when their company experiences a high turnover rate.
They need to remember the lesson of George Washington: loyalty goes both ways, up and down.
That’s’s not just the right way to do; it’s the profitable way.
I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Image: Wikipedia Commons: Charles Wilson Peale
Alan Graner is chief creative officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations. To understand the principles of loyalty, he suggests you observe dogs. For loyal and dedicated public relations collaboration, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.