The Power of Love at the Office

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Loving your customers makes good business sense. Show them some love, and they’ll reward you by purchasing more and raving about you, which hopefully leads to more love affairs, purchases, and ultimately growth.

Loving on your boss makes good business sense too. Do remarkable work, and thank her for entrusting you with the project, and she’s likely to give you even more opportunities. Take those two actions consistently, and before you know it, you’ll be the boss.

Loving on your colleagues and your employees also makes good sense. It makes for ease in collaborating, and ultimately finishing projects. The more you love on them, the easier it is to get stuff done. Fail to love on them and you’ll wind up complaining about…well, everything related to them.

Finger pointing leads to frustration, hampering progress, and leaving you sitting at your desk late into the evening on Friday, searching for a way to complete the project by yourself. Doing it alone is easier anyway, right? In the moment, it seems smarter to focus on finishing instead of asking questions, listening, and looking for ways to help them succeed.

“Why in the world would I bother to help them succeed?” you ask. The obvious answer: that’s what leadership is.

The less obvious answer: helping them is helping you. Seeing beyond everyday annoyances and helping others reach their goals will almost always cause them to see beyond your annoying behavior, and help you succeed.

Many leaders understand that top-notch sales professionals reach a high level of success because they care enough to learn everything there is to know about their customers. (Some even know their kids’ lacrosse schedule, and remember to call and ask about the game.) Yet, very few understand why a now-ex-employee would ever say,

“This was the easiest job I ever quit. I didn’t feel like you cared, so why would I bother?”

Yes, that happened. Janice, a senior executive recruited for a critical position, really did say those words to her boss after finishing the project and leaving the company. And, she wasn’t trying to be cruel—just honest.

Stop for a moment. Think about the person you’ve been struggling to get results from, and ask yourself, “Do I care about this person’s success? How do I know I care?”

Go a little deeper, and ask, “Do I care about them, or the result I want them to create?” There’s no judgment here. Perhaps you’re hoping that pretending to care will get them to produce the result you want. And, it might…if you’re shortsighted.

The problem with pretending is that everyone can see right through it. They know what you care about—the result. And there’s no shame in caring about the result. The problem is that people help to create the result. And, if you don’t care about them, they’ll know it. Care about them, on the other hand, and they’ll run through walls to help you reach success.

Why is it that we struggle with opening ourselves up to feeling love…for our colleagues, employees, suppliers, and customers? The simple answer is: risk-reward ratio. Pretending is safe. We get to hold onto our false sense of control, and avoid revealing our true selves. If you reject my false self, no problem. Reject who I really am beneath the facade—now that hurts!

It’s easy to say, “Love without the condition that you’ll be loved in return,” but it’s hard to do. Add to that the fact that everyone shows love differently and you have a recipe for…most workplaces. This is why we tend to hire people who are just like us, despite the fact that being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, diligent, and harder-working.

So, how do you love despite the fact that they might leave for a better opportunity, or fail to reciprocate?

This is a particularly interesting question considering the number of leaders who have sought to imitate others who are getting the most media exposure. In reality, what works for one company (leader) isn’t necessarily going to work for the next.

Turns out, there’s a difference between seeking to get more out of your employees, and truly loving them enough to help them succeed. In reality, you cannot manufacture a loving environment, though some have tried—and failed.

If you want them to love their work environment, you have to show them some love by:

• Listening to their dreams/goals
• Communicating consistently
• Sharing your mistakes
• Celebrating successes and failures
• Challenging yourself openly
• Provoking their greatness
• Setting a bold vision
• Helping them remember that their contribution matters

Since loving your customers seems to make sense to most, let’s borrow from that idea. Loving your customers begins by taking the time and energy required to understand their needs—not even necessarily their need for your product/service, right away.

To communicate in their language, you must care enough to listen. The better the listener (dare I say, lover), the higher the sales. The same is true in leadership, even if they haven’t yet bought into your vision. The better the listener, the higher the performance.

The key here is authenticity. If you’re “loving on them” with the intention of getting something out of them, you’re really just manipulating them. Yet many leaders use this approach because it works—in the short term. In the long term, it destroys credibility, confidence, and trust—essential ingredients for creativity and innovation.

Authenticity begins with acknowledging the truth. If you don’t know what you care about, what you’re striving to achieve, or why it matters, chances are, they won’t either. The only way to win from this position is to manufacture (manipulate) success.

Please, save yourself the ulcers that come from this line of thinking, and love yourself enough to discover and communicate your passion, purpose, and vision. Once you opt for this path, loving others is simple.

Here’s to Your Greatness,

Misti Burmeister

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