“My colleague wondered whether they could explore the subject of love,” explained Brian. “There was an awkward pause. Followed, by nervous, and then uproarious, laughter”.
In most large global businesses the response would be much the same. In these organizations the concept of love is irrelevant. Love has no place in business. Obviously.
But stop for a moment. What, after all, is ‘love’? Synonyms include: passion, regard, affection, enjoyment, zest, understanding and compassion. Are these not exactly the attributes the Boards of most plcs will complain are lacking from their cultures? Are these not exactly what would make cultures ‘become more human’ and people ‘to interact with colleagues and clients in a more natural, open and authentic way?
And the antonyms of ‘love? These include: resentment, scorn, malice, antagonism, lack of alignment, fear. You don’t need to look far to see these traits showing up in almost any large organisation in the world.
So, if it is a culture of passion, zest and understanding we seek to build and resentment, misalignment and fear we seek to remove, perhaps love is not such an embarrassment. Far less an irrelevance.
To achieve the perfect performance culture perhaps all we need do is embrace a culture of love.
And if that is still too uncomfortable, try another synonym. Try ‘trust’. Imagine your organisation if everything was based on a core principle of ‘trust’; if trust was the context in which every decision was made? How radical would the change be from the hierarchical, controlling, risk-obsessed, stifling reality of today? How far would this unshackle the creative potential of your people and your performance?
It’s actually not that radical a notion. It’s what really good entrepreneurial leaders build into the core DNA of their businesses. Every day. It’s what Reed Hastings of Netflix means when he says ‘figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context rather than by trying to control people’.
Ajaz Ahmed the founder of AKQA, now the largest digital agency in the world, runs his global business on a simple principle. ‘Hire good people who share your values, provide clarity in what needs to be done, trust them and give them independence to do their jobs’.
These are the businesses founded on a basis of trust not control, opportunity not fear of risk. These are businesses that are imbued with passion, affection, enjoyment, zest, understanding and compassion.
In a word; love.
And the impact goes straight to the balance sheet; these businesses attract and retain the best; they are agile, innovative, creative. And above all, they are valuable.