When I first heard of the idea of "love" as a hardcore leadership principle that drives employee engagement and high-performing cultures, I actually cringed. That was my reaction.
So I followed the evidence and started asking questions. To that end, I interviewed Steve Farber, founder and CEO of The Extreme Leadership Institute and bestselling author of The Radical Leap, because I was interested in his latest book, Love Is Just Damn Good Business.
I was curious about the business case he would make in his book for "operationalizing love." Farber believes something as hard to quantify as "love" actually can produce measurable results in business.
When love is baked into the culture, he said, it effects every aspect of a business in a positive way. Customers who love what you do are more likely to spend more money with your business, promote you to their friends, and give your brand their undying loyalty.
Operationalizing Love in Business
One key in the Farber formula is to create a shared passion around the mission of the work you and your organization are doing. Here are four ways he says you can do that:
1. Invite people into your mission.
If you are just starting your business, involve your team in creating the mission. If your organization has been around a while, talk to your employees about the mission. What do they like about it? How does it apply to their work? Why should they feel passionate about your mission? These types of conversations typically lead to one of two outcomes: greater buy-in for your mission or the realization that your mission needs an overall.
2. Evangelize the mission.
The best leaders are doing what they love, which means they have a deep passion for their work and the outcomes it produces. They feel so strongly about it that they share their passions about the mission at every opportunity. They tell stories that illustrate how the mission is lived out. They quote the mission in meetings and tie decisions back to the mission statement. They help people see how and why their mission truly matters, not just to them but to everyone in the world.
3. Keep the mission high.
It's easy to get distracted by the tyranny of the urgent when leading a business. When that happens, leaders tend to miss many of the opportunities that come their way or chase rabbits that lead into briar patches of trouble. Leaders who filter their decisions through their mission have a better sense of when to say no, even to good ideas, and when to say yes to the best ideas that align with the mission.
4. Reward the mission.
If you want to bake something into your culture, you have to recognize and reward the people who are consistently tossing in the right ingredients. Pull them aside and tell them thanks, citing a specific example of what they've done. Sing their praises to their peers and to your clients and customers. Give them a financial reward, if possible. Show them you love what they are doing -- even if their efforts end in failure. That's right. Reward failure if the intentions were born of a love for the mission. Offer grace and help them learn from any mistakes they made. That's how love results in innovation.
It takes time and energy to build a culture that operationalizes love, and some will resist the efforts. But Farber says creating a bond around a shared passion for the mission is worth the effort, partly because it's the right thing do to on a human level, but also because the returns make for great bottom-line business results. That's something you can count . . . and something that counts.