Love and Leadership

Photo: Obi Onyeador

Love Starts with Leadership

Around here we celebrate Valentine’s Day sentiments all the time. We tell each other how much we appreciate, cherish, are wowed by, awed by, impressed by, and value each other. It’s not in our culture deck (we don’t have one since we’re always flexing and morphing to grow and change with the world of work). It’s not in the rulebook and it’s not even in any of the job descriptions. It’s just in the ethos of TalentCulture. 

I’m showing you a glimpse of how we work to make a point: all that love? It’s up to me. Daily, I’m aware of a deep sense of responsibility: I founded this company, and it’s up to me to make sure we’re all feeling good about it and great about each other. It has to be that way: the people come first. And if we’re going to love each other it has to start with the leader. So, my lovelies, here’s the closest thing to a box of chocolates I can give you all: 4 tips on how to bring more love into the workspace, whatever shape that space takes:

Be emoji-ional

Consider your favorite brands, and then, if you would, reflect on a conversation you may have had via chat, or a text, or on a social media platform. I love that brand. I heart that brand. Or you may have dropped literal heart emojis on someone’s text recently to express your absolute affirmation for their observation or idea. 

Social media has made it stunningly easier to express our feelings in a lighter, more informal way — which is far more appropriate for the workplace than any written declarations, let’s face it. The more we blend social into our workspaces, the easier it is to spread that love around. 

Get inspired.

Going back through the amazing posts we’ve published on TalentCulture.com, I realized we’ve always been interested in love. So, dear readers, here’s some reading material. Love and its impact on the office has plenty of angles, including a new post by guest contributor Rebecca Shaw on a recent UK office romance study. The research uncovered a disquieting gap between how women and men perceive work entanglements — and puts the onus on HR to help equitably and safely untie the knots. 

A post on why engagement comes from the heart bears a re-visit, bringing up the value of emotional currency. Kevin Grossman, a longtime member of the TalentCulture family, wrote about the dance between love and money — and managed to bring prog-rock band Rush, AC/DC, Apple and Southwest Airlines under one “culture rocks” umbrella.  We tend to feel very emotional about our work — from colleagues to culture — and it helps to remember that this isn’t new, we’re just getting better, and smarter at dealing with it. 

Take a love inventory.

We do a lot of work with amazing HR tech innovators — and lately we’re covering a lot of ground on the subject of engagement and experience for both candidates and employees. A strategy that comes up again and again is actually asking your employees how they feel. Now that we have access to highly effective tools that can scale to needs and growth — such as surveys, check-ins, feedback and recognition platforms — there’s no excuse for ignoring your workforce’s emotional state of mind. Inaugurate a new campaign to find out how your people are doing, and that should include anyone on the workforce, from freelancers and independent workers to payroll employees to executives. We tend to overlook our own needs as much as anyone else’s, and leadership behavior models the behaviors that the workforce is going to adopt. 

Conduct surveys of employee/workforce sentiment  — short and sweet and frequent is better than long, arduous, and one-time. Include yourself and other leaders and high-level managers as well as the whole workforce. Use the data to reveal the realities of your work culture and workspaces, share it with the workforce, and then start taking action to remedy the weak spots. Transparency and action taken on feedback are definitely part of modern leadership’s love language. 

Practice emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence isn’t a new concept: it’s become a twenty-first century chestnut at this point. It has to do with how skillfully we manage our relationships and ourselves, and it’s been proven to correlate with our ability to perform. But I’m frequently struck but how far away from EQ we’ve gotten. Like many concepts that make a splash and send ripples through the HR field, EQ’s novelty has receded. A great piece in Inc. by Wanda Thibodeax introduces its close “cousins,” cognitive intelligence, success intelligences, and cultural intelligence (CQ). 

But EQ is just as important as ever. When we talk about using tact to deliver un-great news to job applicants, that’s EQ: and it’s akin to letting a suitor down easy because, well, they’re human. When I wrote about the power of some leaders to reach their people, one of the key factors is emotional intelligence — though these days, I’d gather other traits, such as kindness, honesty, respect, letting go and partnering as all part of being emotionally intelligent. Evolution is consolidation in this case, and we’ve come far since that piece first appeared, though with over 700,000 views by now, it’s clearly still hitting a sweet spot. To be perfectly honest, that makes me happy.

The bottom line — to feel love you have to bring the love yourself. It that means you spend a bit more time practicing some much-needed self-care, then do it. Get that box of chocolates, do the yoga class, plan the marathon training, go on vacation, take time to do something good for the planet, or volunteer. Whatever works. It’s your job to make everyone else feel good about themselves and the value they bring to your organization — and that means you need to feel good about yourself and your value as well. Go get yourself a Valentine-y card, then get everyone cards too, and watch the love start to catch on.