Did you know that the Ancient Greeks described six different forms of love, from the passion of “eros”, or sexual love, to the deep friendship of ‘philia’. They understood that love was a complex, multi-facetted thing. But it is something we rarely seem to talk about in the work environment.
Putting love at the core of your strategy
A couple of years ago, I was in a Trustee meeting of a housing support charity discussing future plans, strategies, mission statements. We were discussing the issue of homelessness and the cycle of hopelessness and we were trying to think about how the charity could help people break that cycle. One of my fellow Trustees* dropped the L-word. He said, surely we should be about talking love rather than discuss cold concepts such as strategies. The charity works with people who constantly go through a cycle of being given support and a roof over their head, falling to a state of dis-repair and coming back into “the system”. The solution always seemed to be to give them things to make their lives better. What they needed, he said, was not so much housing but love. They needed love to help heal the damage inside of them.
He was, of course, referring to compassionate love. This love is the basis of empathy. It is what the Greeks would have characterised as ‘agape’ or love of everyone.
But that is easy for a charity, isn’t it? We can’t talk about love in the business world, can we?
Why do something if you don’t love it?
In bigger businesses, we do not talk about love in our work lives. We see it as incongruous. Work is a place to be professional, to focus on targets, to focus on the ends rather than the means. In our home lives, in our hobbies and pastimes, love plays such an important part of our enjoyment. We volunteer through love, we share time with friends through love, we play sports or perform through love … but do we work through love?
If love is more than just physical or romantic love, if love is about caring for others, caring for yourself, maybe love is fundamental to running a happy and successful business. Therefore, I have a question for all you managers and business owners: What can you do in work to show love?
Creating an environment where love flourishes
As a manager, can you create an environment where people love what they do? Can you create an environment where they are proud of what they do? Where they are proud of each other? By being enthusiastic, positive and encouraging, you can build that atmosphere. By setting good standards and rewarding people who show the right behaviours, you can be a leader.
Therefore I have a little task for you: Sit down with each member of staff and ask them “What would have to happen for you to love your work?” It may be a very scary conversation to have but also incredibly rewarding if you can be open and honest.
So this is a plea to find love in other people, be more generous and kind and humble and make your workplace as full of warmth and love as all the other parts of your life.
* and a big thank you to Shaun O’Leary for opening up my mind to love