“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.”
- Sigmund Freud
Valentine’s Day. It's a great time for us all to reflect on the power of love and friendship - not only in our personal relationships, but in our working relations as well. I’ve often wondered if you can power an organisation with love...
“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.”
- Sigmund Freud
Freud suggested that in order to find true happiness, we need love and work. But can you do both or experience both together... at the same time?
For years and years, we’ve heard about the power and virtue of love. Love is widely considered to be a key requirement for humans to truly flourish, central to well-being and a driver of happiness. So why is love such a strange thing to consider in the context of work? Why isn’t this amazing power called love so inappropriate in the workplace when we spent most of our lives there?
A definition of love/
“An intense feeling of deep affection. A great interest and pleasure in something.”
The good news is that when you really think about it and when you really think about the meaning of love, it isn’t really absent from work. And, as leaders become more emotionally intelligent, self-aware and authentic, more are starting to see that love at work can offer many benefits, fueling happiness, productivity, better teamwork, better customer experiences and more profit as a result.
If you google ‘love and work’ you’ll find a growing body of work in this field. Check out John Hope Bryant’s Love Leadership for example, advocating for love in the work context.
Now, before I lose anyone slightly panicking at the prospect of having to use the word love at work (many are still getting used to using the word happiness... one step at a time right?!), you don’t have to start talking about love to benefit from the power of love at work.
Word such as compassion, respect, trust, relationships, happiness, kindness - they all relate back to the power of love in reality. These are words we see increasingly being used within organisations, especially those clever enough to realise the value of trying to unlock the full power of their people at work.
I know from my own work experiences, the difference feeling genuinely valued, respected and ‘loved’ can make to individual, team and organisational performance.
When I feel genuinely cared about by the people I work for and with, I'm truly at my best - I thrive. I'm excited at the prospect of going to work, I'm happy, confident, creative, focused, courageous, authentic - I'm the very best of me! The result - happy clients, happy team, happy co-founder, happy accountant - most importantly happy ME!
In a way, the feelings experienced in this situation at work are similar to those when you fall in love, feeling loved, accepted and cared about by another person, the feelings of euphoria and rush of endorphins that leave you floating on cloud nine!
If I feel less loved at work - maybe I wasn't included in that important meeting or know body asked me if I was ok today and needed any help - my mood, my energy and my self-esteem usually take a bit of a beating! I struggle to get out of bed, I dread the day ahead and consider going to the dentist for root canal work as an easier option over work! The impact on my performance and results as I'm sure you could imagine, are not great.
The importance of feeling loved
I once stumbled across an organization called the 'Love at work' foundation, http://www.loveatworkfoundation.com/; their philosophy and values resonating strongly with both my personal beliefs and our company values around being passionate and purpose-driven and always striving to create happiness.
Their goal – ‘putting love at the heart of business’. This is underpinned by the philosophy 'People perform best when they are loved and respected.'
I personally couldn't agree more! Unless you work alone (or with robots!) you'll be working with and interacting with lots of people - human beings with a wide range of feelings, fears, needs and emotions driving a multitude of behaviors. If you’re a fan of humanistic psychology you’ll know that many of these fundamental needs relate to our feelings around having a sense of purpose, value and love-ability.
As leaders of people, we want to get the best out of our people – we want them to thrive, achieve their full potential and really connect with the goals of the business.
We know that human beings are emotional first and rational second. If we want to get the best from our people we therefore need to create ‘emotional connections’ to a desire to change, develop or grow. It’s is a sure-fire way to ensure our people make a positive personal choice to change behaviors or take on new skills and ideas, whether that be through learning and development, change program's or internal communications – without ignoring the rational side of course!
Love in the workplace
There has been lots of research surrounding the importance of emotional engagement and happiness at work, and the opportunities for greater influence through gaining more awareness and insight into the factors that influence your own and other behaviors and emotions at work.
The Love at Work Foundation values propose a few valuable tips for sharing the love at work.
Have an accurate self-image. Emotional, social and positive intelligence are powerful attributes for the successful 21st Century Leader and it all starts with knowing yourself first before trying to influence the behaviours of others.
Knowing what drives and affects your own behavior enables you not only to be authentic (the real you) but also to manage your relationships with others in a more collaborative, respectful way.
The best learning I ever had in my life was about the power of self-reflection – taking time out to reflect and develop a heightened awareness of your own behavior and reactions and where the opportunities lie for flexing them for even better relationships and results!
See everything from the other person’s point of view. Treat them as you would wish to be treated.
Relationships really are like emotional bank accounts - you have to invest in them before you can make withdrawals! Show that it’s ok to share your feelings at work, good or bad! Encourage an environment of openness and honesty that avoids people suppressing any counterproductive or performance limiting feelings.
Don’t expect everything to happen at once. Take small solid steps, one at a time and make changes you have really thought through.
This is especially important when it comes to managing change at work - were talking about influencing behavior and mindsets here and human beings generally are not wired to deal with change easily, without any reaction or feeling.
Take action – nothing changes unless we do.
I also believe this extends to sticking to your promises - and not promising things you can’t deliver. As leaders we have a number of power bases to lead from - it’s about choosing the right one and certainly not trying to influence people using coercive or positional power! Managing inclusion is key so people feel they have a part to play rather than just having things done to them all the time. This is key.
The more we communicate, the more we understand and the better we are understood.
Openness and honesty (truthfulness) in relationships leads to greater trust - greater trust leads to greater levels of productivity and engagement, and this usually equates to greater results. Contrary to popular belief - there are very few organisational secrets that prevent regular, open and communication with your people.
Communication is also key to engagement as people all share a need for a certain level of inclusion in order to feel valued. I know from experience, having a high need for inclusion, how quickly the perceived feelings of insignificance or not being valued can creep in and adversely affect my behavior, engagement and performance, when I’m not included. It's good to talk!
Today’s business / commercial environment is tough, and in some cases ruthless - but we know more now about the power and importance of motivating and engaging the hearts and minds of our people, and the needs of a diverse workforce.
“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
– John Ruskin
As leaders, we need to be mindful of the need for people to feel loved at work, and the benefits of doing so.
Take your team out on a work date now and again, take an interest in your people, apply the values above, and see the difference this can make to both yours and your teams performance. In the spirit of St Valentines, give a little love!
The same can also be said when it comes to showing your customers love too! How do you show your customers that they are right at the very 'heart' of what you do as a business and that you value and care about giving them the best experience?
Maybe love needs to go on the top of the list of required expertise for all leaders and service providers tomorrow after all!
How will you leverage the power of love at work?
Much love and happiness on this 'lockdown' valentines day. We all need a bit of love right now hey?