Whilst on my MBA, a lovely friend told me about ‘Lovemarks’ - Saatchi & Saatchi’s concept of brands that inspire “Loyalty, Beyond Reason”. Those successful brands which not only deliver great performance and generate high respect, but create an intimate, emotional connection. Brands which are not about mere transactions, but are about relationships and we embrace them passionately.
Marketers definitely understand the potency of the four-letter-L word to move products.
Yesterday‘s celebrated St. Valentine's day is a case in point.
Why though, are we OK with marketers talking of love, but rarely, if ever, use the term in board or team meetings, even if the conversations that take place are about how to interact more effectively with each other and better serve clients? Why with all the initiatives around engagement or wellbeing in the workplace, or around organisational cultural change, love doesn’t get a mention?
As in our romantic lives, maybe there is no need to say the word. It can be implicit. It is perhaps the reason one turns up and does the work one does. However as also is the case of our romantic lives, there is potency in making it explicit. Naming it for what it is.
With its formalities, structures and unwritten rules, there are obvious challenges in talking about love in organisations. And with all its connotations, one can just imagine the corridor conversations...
But in business and organisations 'love' means a genuine compassion for humankind, with all that this implies. As human beings, we look to give and receive love in our interactions and actions. And this includes at work. The loving qualities of attention, acceptance and appreciation are at the core of our earliest childhood memories and at the heart of universal compassion.
And we know it intuitively - and research confirms it. Barsade and O’Neill’s HBR article ‘employees who feel love perform better’ outlines their cross industry study which found that people who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organisation, and accountable for their performance. They named it companionate love.
With the global values shifting towards sustainability, developing workplace spirituality (of which I include love) is now considered to be a mainstream and pressing leadership topic. This reflects the trend that we are drawn (and willing to say so) to organisations, as employees, clients and customers, which make decisions and conduct themselves in a way that respects and cares for people and the world we live in. Millennials (and the rest of us) want to enjoy their work, their workplace, have colleagues as friends, have a balanced life. My Impact colleague Andy Dickson talks about love’s impact on our longevity and of “giving ourselves permission to dream, to hope, to love”. We have examples from history, and there are new businesses emerging which are founded with real attention to providing meaning and a sense of belonging. There are also the likes of co-operatives, employee ownership organisations, mutuals, credit unions and sharing economy businesses, which offer different models of collective care. And the growing interest of mindfulness in organisations, is helping us talk about, and practise open hearted curiosity and loving kindness – to ourselves and others. Here my colleague Erin Tetarenko talks about her discovery into wholehearted leadership.
Poet Kahlil Gibran wrote, ‘Work is love made visible.’ More now than ever, leaders need to pay attention to our human desire to express this, the emotional climate of their organisations and the meaning, values and structures which support it.
It takes a bold company to take these first steps and ask:
- What is love for us in our organisation?
- How do we embody it in terms of who we are as an organisation and what we do?
Martin, T. N. and Hafer, J. C. (2009) "Models of emotional intelligence, spiritual intelligence and performance: a test of Tischler, Biberman and McKeage", Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 6(3) pp. 247-257.
Penelope Mavor is an Associate at Impact Italia.