In my previous life working up the ranks of corporate America, I saw some pretty bad stuff. Toxic management styles and some of the worst human behaviors you can imagine.
And then there's the worst feeling of all that most of us have felt: fear
Fear in the workplace.
Countless people have said at one time or another that "fear is a great motivator." Sure, if you're about to be eaten by a saber-tooth tiger as you drag your game back to the cave.
But in the workplace, fear is actually a de-motivator. It strips us of our ability to be creative and innovate. At worse, the exposure to prolonged fear has dire consequences on our physical and emotional health.
Historically, as we look at what the workplace has become, most organizations see people as objects or functions--as a means to an end in a transaction.
If that's how we are going to continue to treat each other--as a transaction and a means to an end, you can bet that our interaction will continue in the same route, where people don't feel fully valued, respected, or cared for as human beings.
What if we treated each other as real people, what would that look like? What if we came into work tomorrow and made a conscious choice to see our coworkers or customers as people with real hopes and dreams and fears as important as our own? I don't know about you, but you know what that would do to me, personally?
It would make me want to connect with them better, as one a human being to another. Because when I'm in that relational frame of mind, where I see people through the lenses of empathy, care, and compassion, the dynamic in the workplace is usually much different. I am more in harmony, I collaborate better, I encourage others, and I am more open to trusting that they will reciprocate the same care and support as we problem solve and celebrate wins together.
The rare habit of positive leaders.
This is especially true if you're in a leadership or management role, from a founder of a 5-person startup all the way up to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Leadership is an esteemed and privileged role, even sacred. It should never be cheapened by the selfish pursuit of its status or power, even though you'll inherit both.
As a leader, you have an enormous responsibility to take care of someone else's daughter, son, spouse, or partner. And I can tell you this: Each person who chooses to work for you is relying on you for guidance--to be taken care of.
That brings me to proposing a far fetched idea, one in which I have seen in the most selfless and positive leaders, but prepostorous in the minds of many. Consider that the most powerful force in the world is love. And what I've found is that in truly human workplaces--those companies that are also profitable and making a mark in their industries--love shows up not in feelings or emotions, but through actionable behaviors that lead to results.
"Love in action," in this sense and in every business sense, is counter to fear, control, micromanagement, incivility, and self-centeredness. And love in action is what is prevalent in the culture and employee experience, which then carries over to the customer experience.
At first thought, this idea sounds fluffy and off-putting from a business and organizational standpoint. Love? Really?
Yes, love as a verb, when shown in how employees are treated and cared for makes a stunning difference. It raises performance; it improves employee engagement; it increases value and loyalty across the organization; and it makes people arrive home at the end of the day and tell their loved ones, "I love my job and I can't wait to be back tomorrow."
I believe we're reaching an inflection point. More human-centered leaders are using the word love in the business lexicon, as they should. The research has already attributed caring and belonging--principles of love--to countless, positive business outcomes that lead to competitive advantage.
We spend more awake hours at work with our coworkers and bosses and customers than we do with our own families. In the end, what's love got to do with it?