In a long conversation with a good friend, I found out how unhappy he had been at work recently. In fact, so much so that he decided to quit, erase every memory, and even burn bridges with his employer. Why?
There’s a unanimous belief among the co-workers in his organization that none of them ever felt genuine love and care from their boss. Lack of love and respect translated into fierce debates opened up a culture of public defamation, and fostered a vicious blame game of ruthless finger-pointing, leading to a tank in organizational performance.
This episode is not a one-off occurrence. Incidents of mounting tension between bosses and subordinates, loss of transparency between co-founders, and communication failure between customers and organizations are downright banal. Consequently, relationships are frail, and businesses are shut down. Whatever the case, rest assured that more often than not, both the source of discontentment and the upshot are the same – a tale of lost love.
Broadly speaking, there are two emotions that drive performance in an organization: fear and love. One group works out of fear of punishable repercussions (promotion halt, bonus cut, poor recommendation, etc.); the other pours their heart out and does not even dread the extra sweat because of their love and loyalty to the work and to the team.
While some may argue that eventually what matters is the accomplishment of tasks. However, when you consider long-term implications, trust me you don’t want to resort to fear to lead organizations. From my personal experience, I can tell that love ticks, and fear trickles.
As an entrepreneur, I can totally relate to this. The companies we dream of and build from scratch, the people we team up with to share those visions, and the community we serve to scale our missions, are all part of us and intensely personal. They are akin to our families. Our lives. Our souls.
If you are a professional, chances are you spend most of your waking hours working with your colleagues and other professional stakeholders. If you don’t harbor love, empathy, respect, and compassion for these people, you are not living a great life. Could you do a greater disservice to yourself?
Look at IBM, Disney, or Boeing. No wonder these are some of the great companies in the world. When their founders were asked what made them successful, among other characteristics, each one of them attributed an undying love for the cause and the people they work with the same breath.
Herbert Kelleher, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines, a popular domestic U.S. airline, took his love for his staff one step further. Once when an irate customer aired her grievances against Southwest’s customer service to Herbert, his one-liner email response couldn’t have been more sarcastic. It read, “Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.”
Another great love story can be found in the proliferation of Starbucks. At a time when Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, was visiting Italy early in his career, he was taken aback by the palpable human connection existing between the baristas in the coffee shops and the customers. To him, it looked more like a scene out of a family living room than a typical restaurant where customers and employees alike transcended all formal boundaries and indulged in sharing stories and emotions in a manner that clearly befit love’s omnipresence in the air. Had Howard not stumbled upon that open culture of love and come to appreciate it, probably Starbucks wouldn’t be what we know it to be today.
One might argue – but what about Apple? In stark contrast, Apple under Steve Jobs stands out as a total anomaly. As testified by many of his subordinates, Jobs didn’t spread love, rarely showed leniency in leadership, and cared less for what customers thought. Yet, he made Apple one of the most sought-after brands in the world. I’d say it’s a rare exception where the work of the brain exceeds the warmth of the heart.
In business, you need a combination of both the mind and the heart to succeed. While it’s true that the brain drives the rationale behind seeding the big ideas in the ground, make no mistake that it’s the heart that infuses love and care in the form of water to warrant that the seed grows to produce fruits.
As business professionals, it’s important we nurture this gifted emotion from within and care to practice outside ourselves. Embrace people with love from your core, treat them with respect and give ample share of appreciation for whatever role they play in your organization. Not only will your brand wear a beautiful external façade, but also glow your interior in ways that will invite a talented workforce and loyal customers much like how bees flock to honey. Believe me, it will work. Let there be love.
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