As a business leader, I know, you're no softie. That's why you're in charge. You didn't get where you are today by knowing all the words to "Kumbaya." You have developed a thick skin, an unsentimental view of the world, and a Teflon exterior that lets problems roll right off your back. Those are all important leadership qualities in the workplace, sure.
But if that's all you are, you are not being the best leader you can be, or getting the best results you could get, either. Here's the bottom line: by warming up the temperature in your life and in your workplace, you'll ensure the best for yourself and your employees. Commit to making the work environment ripe for happiness, job satisfaction, and bonding among the people on your team, and to set the example from the top down. Love is not just a greeting-card word and not something to be relegated to your "private life." In fact, love is damn good business.
A Harvard Business Review story reported on a survey of more than 3,000 employees in seven industries and found that people whose workplaces encouraged them "to feel free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another" had a better experience at work and passed that positive experience on to others. They had more job satisfaction, a higher level of commitment to their companies, and performed in a more accountable fashion, the Harvard publication reported. And that's all because they were able to develop close ties with their co-workers as well as their clients and customers.
Yes, love is not just wonderful; it's also productive. That should not be a surprise. I think we would all agree that love is the strongest and most appealing emotion on earth. It can bring out the best parts of our nature such as loyalty, emotional closeness, and the desire to do things for other people. And it can also energize you: make you want to try harder and do more. So here are the three things you need to do to feel the love:
Make love part of your business model.
Let's say you're going out shopping to treat yourself to some fine chocolates. In the first shop, a distracted clerk is staring off into space, obviously thinking about something else. He gets you the chocolates you want quickly and efficiently, puts them in a bag, and hands them over, but barely makes eye contact.
In the second shop, the owner is behind the counter, and she greets you effusively, expertly and carefully gift-wraps the chocolates, and chats about the origin of the word "truffles," all while making eye contact and behaving as though you are the most important person in her world.
Which business gave you the impression that its people love what they're doing? And, therefore, which box of chocolates is sweeter?
Employees will model how they are treated by their leaders. Do you greet them enthusiastically, making eye contact when you ask how they are doing? Do you take time to ask if they need any help and if so, provide that help graciously? Doing so will make them feel important to you, and they will pass that caring on and treat others, including coworkers and customers accordingly.
Take five minutes to show genuine interest.
Making love part of your business strategy is no more complicated than the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Really try to know and understand the people around you in your work life, including customers, employees, and people in other companies you do business with.
Ask them how their weekend was, or if they have holiday plans. Do they have a favorite sports team that did well (or bombed) over the weekend that you could celebrate or commiserate with them during a couple of minutes on Monday morning?
Cultivate warmth, openness, and accessibility in every form of communication, and don't be afraid to let people know that you care about what interests them and what bugs them. This might be a little more time-consuming, but it's a time investment that will pay off.
Be the person who exudes love at your work.
Starting today, put in place a foundation in the workplace for love as part of the business model. Build in the extra time for people to talk to each other. Look around and find ways to humanize the interactions around you. Not just meetings, but check-ins on people's attitudes and how they're feeling. Not just memos, but sincere interest in hearing an honest response.
Let impatience fall to the sidelines and invest (it's not a waste) the time you need and the time your people need to be more involved. Be the leader who loves his work, from the company that loves its mission, and you're a step closer to being the company that people love to give their business to.