Love. It’s just damn good business.
I know this to be true. I also understand a broader reality: Many leaders don’t buy it.
Even if they agree in spirit, they reject the idea in practice. They think it is idealistic, naive, and impractical. So they don’t spend much time cultivating love at work.
Where do they focus? Technology.
A recent study by Korn Ferry found that 63 percent of the 800 leaders they interviewed said technology will be their firm’s greatest source of competitive advantage within five years. And 67 percent said technology will create greater value in the future than people.
These are leaders of multi-million dollar global organizations, by the way.
Are they wrong? Well, not entirely. Technology is important.
But they still need to cultivate love. In fact, I’d argue keeping ahead of the technology game is merely table stakes. Love is the real competitive advantage.
Love–when done right–builds great brands, creates customer loyalty, and increases employee productivity and retention.
What is love? (Baby, don’t hurt me)
Love is not touchy-feely California hoo-ha crap. It’s not organizations where everyone is happy all the time… where people walk around with big, goofy grins on their faces… where no one ever argues… where everybody does whatever they want whenever they please… where every so often you stop all the action and have a group hug in the breakroom.
So what is it? What does it look like when it’s a competitive advantage?
Here is a simple formula for creating a high-performance culture that people love working in:
Kindness + High Standards = Love at Work.
Company cultures rooted in love demonstrate mutual care and concern for one another’s hopes, needs, dreams, and aspirations. They treat each other with the dignity and respect that is cited on virtually every values statement in every company from every part of the globe.
When people treat each other with kindness, they are more helpful and thus more productive. And kindness generates these same feelings for customers and clients–it cultivates an organization that cares for the people it serves.
Keep your standards high
Kindness, however, is just one part of the equation. As I often tell clients, sometimes love for the health of the company and love for the individual employees smack right up against each other. Sometimes love is tough. That’s because real love is driven by a commitment to excellence.
High standards create a vision people can believe in and support – a vision they can love. That love generates a commitment to excellence in the products and services they create, in the ways they create them, and in the manner in which they treat each other. And they set standards for accountability driven by love and executed with kindness.
Think about it: When you love someone or something, you want what’s best for them or it. You don’t settle for mediocre. You strive for excellence. That means you will have to make tough decisions and have some tough conversations.
Under Armour–which has gone from start-up to a competitive player in the ultra-tough sports apparel business in just 10 years–is an example of this formula in action. It ranked No. 17 this year on LinkedIn’s “Top Attractors” list of places in the U.S. where people most want to work.
Why? Founder Kevin Plank says it’s all about a culture with high standards driven by the kindness of love.
“I firmly believe that people don’t work for companies, they work for people,” Plank told business journalist Suzy Welch. “Our people are on fire. We’re winning, and they’re feeling loved and cared for, and they’re loving and caring for each other.”
Winning comes from high standards. When combined with kindness, you get the type of love that is damn good business.
[This post was originally published on my weekly column at Inc.com]