As a leadership coach, I often find one missing component as the root cause of so many issues affecting the workplace, including droves of employees quitting.
A lack of love.
I admit I'm an idealist. But I think many of you will agree with me that the most powerful force in the universe is love. And yet the business world has largely ignored the benefits that come from a workplace fueled by love.
What do I mean by "love" in the workplace? It's not what you think. When people speak of love in the context of work, it is most often used to describe romantic workplace relationships or secret rendezvous. This type of starry-eyed entanglement in the workplace creates a host of challenges for leaders in addition to violating any number of company policies. It is no wonder that the topic of love has been eschewed by C-suites and leadership development programs over the years.
Redefining love in the workplace
But what if we view love in the workplace differently? What if we look at love as the wholesome respect and admiration of the other human beings with whom we interact?
It's not easy. The consummate professional and the commanding executive are likely to find some discomfort with this. By avoiding the so-called soft skills, they maintain a secure sense of who they are and solidify their reputation as hard-core managers, strategists, or analysts. They stay centered on what they're most accustomed to, seeking only what's visibly measurable, bowing at the altar of metrics, and remaining bound to the status quo. These actions may feel comfortable, but they are a cop-out.
In a profound new book that came across my desk recently, authors Zina Sutch and Patrick Malone tackle the challenge of love in the workplace in Leading With Love and Laughter-- Letting Go and Getting Real at Work.
The authors outline the numerous personal, professional, and organizational benefits of infusing the workplace with love, and they challenge leaders to take a step away from pre-patterned ways of thinking and exhibit a little vulnerability.
How do leaders make love happen?
The benefits of practical love displayed in action are unquestionable. An Administrative Science Quarterly landmark study on love conclusively showed that a culture marked by emotion and companionate love at work was directly related to worker satisfaction and teamwork. Further, employees were less likely to miss work because of sickness or other factors.
Research in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences revealed similar findings. There's little doubt that love creates a sense of psychological well-being that benefits all.
But how do leaders pull it off in a manner that makes business sense and leads to results? The authors provide an outline.
1. Examine whether love is present at work
Take a close look at your personal leadership philosophy, the organization's values, and your mission statement to see if the word love is present. It is not enough to simply talk about wanting environments of love and gratitude. They need to be formalized and explicitly stated as part of the institutional documents and evaluation processes. The formality gives love staying power and lets everyone know you're serious.
2. Gauge how often you use the word love in conversation with your teams
We spend a lot of time with those with whom we work. The average full-time employee works 1,801 hours per year, or 37.5 hours per week, higher than any of the other 38 nation members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. According to Sutch, "Work family is still family." So, considering that we spend more time with colleagues than family, it makes sense to foster relationships that use words like love, care, and compassion. Let your work family feel the love as well!
3. Be intentional about creating an environment of love
Workplace bonds manifest themselves in terms of psychological safety. Studies show that our need for efficacy exceeds our more primal desires for money and artificial gratification. Our employees want connection, empathy, and transparency. They want to know leaders care. As Sutch notes, "It is amazing how much we can accomplish when we simply approach others with an open heart." When we focus on building authentic relationships, the resulting bonds fuel organizational commitment and productivity.
The late John Lennon wrote the powerful song "All You Need Is Love." Love emerges in the most innocent of moments, and leaders who take intentional steps to create environments of care, affection, tenderness, forgiveness, and kindness can transform their workplaces into more innovative, creative, and impassioned business environments.