Love Work… What’s Love Got to Do with Work?

Love and Work in the same breath, the same sentence? Surely not! That’s what some have said to me at least.  What do you think of when you think about the word work? You might think of toil, you might think of pay or financial reward, you might think of ‘hard work’ or a constant sense of being busy.  We think of logic, strategy, critical thinking. But love? Love is an emotion that has no place in work, surely?

I have heard this line of reasoning from individuals and unfortunately leaders, some senior, that I have encountered as I coach and facilitate in the business world.  Leave the emotions out of it, that fluffy stuff needs to stay at the door, none of that airy-fairy nonsense.  The challenge is that in these crazy times in particular love is absolutely essential in reimagining how we move forward, in reinventing the economy, in reopening safely and successfully.  Not only love, not just love.  We need both logic and love.  We need accountability and empathy.  We need strength and warmth.  We all deserve work with love.  Those two words belong together.  Love Work.

So, let’s talk about love and work.  We very often focus on the ‘hard skills’, the competencies – knowledge, skills and attitudes required for a specific role.  The depth and breadth of experience of a candidate.  The capabilities of a leader.  Very often too little emphasis is placed on the ‘soft skills’ when the reality of it is everyone we are leading is human and human engineering is what leadership is about.

When we think about the leaders who have impacted us most in our careers – both good and bad, the things we remember about them, the characteristics that stand out are rarely their ability to code, read a balance sheet or analysis the data.  I’ve done this exercise thousands of times with leaders and without fail, every time what we remember, what stays with us is the leaders ability to listen, the personal interest they took in us and our career, the way they believed in us and challenged us to grow and be the best versions of ourselves.  It was how they demonstrated all the characteristics of love.

I’m not talking about romantic love at work.  I am not talking about a mushy, gooey soft kind of love.  I am talking about healthy positive regard, love with boundaries, love focused on results, love that knows clear is kind, unclear is unkind (TY Brene Brown)

We have defined love in a very narrow way in modern English.  The ancient Greeks had seven different words for the types of love we encounter and might be lucky enough to experience throughout our lives.

  • Eros (romantic, passionate love) …
  • Philia (affectionate love) …
  • Agape (selfless, universal love) …
  • Storge (familiar love) …
  • Mania (obsessive love) …
  • Ludus (playful love) …
  • Pragma (enduring love) …
  • Philautia (self love)

So we don’t want Eros but other kinds of love are vital to engaged, inspired organisations who are pursuing their mission and vision and delivering for customers.

We want Philia, we want our teams to have each others backs.  One of the greatest indicators of engagement is that we have a best friend at work.  When we go the extra mile very often its because we don’t want to let the person to our left or the person to our right, down.

We want Agape, we want our teams to work with passion to deliver on something that is greater than them, to serve customers, to deliver results for the vision and the mission of the organisation.

We want Storge, we want our teams to know each other, to build relationships so they can bring the best out of each other, to flex to each others strengths and manage their weaknesses together.

We want some Mania too!  We want our teams to obsess (in the healthiest way!) about quality, customer service, doing the right thing, having high standards.  We want them to care.

We want Ludus, we need some play and some space for creativity and innovation.  When we have space for fun held with warmth its safe for us to suggest new things, new ideas, different ways of looking and doing thing.

We want Pragma, in a world where job hopping is becoming more normal and loyalty feels rare, we want to retain our best people, to build teams that last.

We want Philautia, we want our people to be the best of themselves, to self actualise, to succeed, to grow, to develop, to become the leaders we know they can be.

In the global economy where technical skills are being commoditized at a faster and faster pace it is emotional intelligence, creativity, innovation and imagination that will differentiate us.  These will be the hallmark of companies that last, that continue to reinvent themselves, to change and adapt and continue to evolve.  When we find somewhere we belong, a place where we are seen and heard and where we matter, it inspires people and when people are inspired they do great things together.

So it does take technical skills, it does take strategy and critical thinking for sure but just as essentially it also takes Love.  We need both.

We all deserve work we love.  We may not like it all the time, much like we may not like the way some we love treats us all the time. We spend too long all day every day earning a living to work without love.

The thing I love to do is to inspire and enable people to do more great work, individually or together.  I love my work and I would love you to reach out and start a conversation.