Valentine’s Day is in less than a month. I know, right? But love is already in the air. The problem is: it’s *still* not in the air, or culture, or anywhere else at too many companies.
That’s really too bad, and it’s also very shortsighted.
Because leading with love is a winning leadership and employee engagement strategy on many levels.
Employer & Employee Rapport Is Like Marriage (Or Dating For The Faint Of Heart)
The employer/employee relationship is, in many ways, similar to dating or marriage. It started with courtship (the hiring process), moves through engagement (building deepening bonds and commitment), and if successful, ends with a fulfilling relationship in which both parties thrive in a culture that balances independence with emotional support.
Think of the great leaders, in any field, who have inspired you. Typically, you don’t like them, you love them. Because they touch you. They give you something that transcends the everyday ordinary and the practical; they engage you on an emotional level. They speak to your best self, and make you want to give of that self. Leaders at all levels in every organization can take performance to new levels by putting love into their toolkits.
The Research That Backs Love
Want some research to back up the power of love? First of all, according to Gallup’s widely respected State of the American Workplace report, disengaged employees cost businesses $450-550 billion a year in lost productivity. Emotionally connected employees simply perform better. According to the Boston Consulting Group, since 2001, companies that embrace “whole person” employee engagement have consistently outpaced growth in S&P average cumulative share price by margins of up to 99 percent. Gallup reports these additional benefits from total quality of life programs:
• 37% lower absenteeism
• 48% fewer safety incidents
• 41% fewer quality defects
• 28% less inventory shrinkage
• 10% higher customer satisfaction and
• Up to 22% higher profitability
These numbers are nothing less than astonishing: proof that love is the ultimate leadership tool. So how do you bring it to your organization? Try this exercise: Think of the people in your life that you love: spouse, parents, kids, friends, colleagues. Think of the ways you express that love. Now bring that same mindset to your employees. This is about caring about them and for them. Helping them build high-quality, fulfilling lives for themselves.
This means, first and foremost, making them a partner in their own work lives. Help them develop their strengths. Listen and respond. Give them the tools they need to deliver stellar performance. Then look at ways to integrate their work lives into their whole lives. Childcare, healthy foods, exercise, flexible scheduling. You want to develop a holistic approach, one that views employees as well-rounded individuals, not cogs in a large impersonal wheel.
Power Up With Love
It’s easy to roll our eyes at the power of love in the workplace, to be cynical, to dismiss all this stuff as touchy-feely nonsense, fine in theory perhaps but of little practical use. Big mistake! Think about the companies you most admire, look into their corporate culture and management practices, and I guarantee you that you will find love. They may not call it that, but any company that actively cares about its people, and works with them hand-in-hand to build fulfilling, well-rounded lives is practicing the leadership of love.
May we let the Valentine’s Day love last all year long! Why be cynical?
This post was adapted from Let Love Inspire Your Leadership, which originally appeared on Forbes.com.
About the Author: Meghan M. Biro is a globally-recognized talent management leader and social business and community catalyst. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent.