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  • Angelique Benois

The "4-Letter Word" in the Workplace can Boost Workplace Wellness


“A company is stronger if bound by love than by fear.” – Herb Kelleher, cofounder of Southwest Airlines. When Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, first heard Herb Kelleher’s words more than 40 years ago he was, and these are his own words, “…was completely taken by it.” In Tindell’s interesting book, Uncontainable, he describes how he and his leadership team went on to shape The Container Store’s outstanding “employee first” culture in ways that reflect LOVE (were you thinking I was referring to a different 4-letter word..lol). He credits the company’s culture for its success.

I have been lucky in that when I worked in the corporate world I was Blessed with some amazing leaders. They were not afraid to show their emotions and expressed appreciation for my efforts within the team. The first time I heard the word “love” within the workplace I questioned the authenticity of it. I remember pausing in disbelief, but that was short lived as I felt the sincerity. I know others were surprised also, nobody was expecting to hear the L-word. And of course verbally saying it, is not always the best way. It has to be an authentic process and can look very different in different workplaces. Regardless of how, when love comes from the top down it is felt. It gives birth to a sense of belonging.



In my experience there is less of the “survival of the fittest” mentality. I have had the opportunity to feel it the other way around also. The director displayed a lack of compassion and inability to demonstrate her skills for leading a team in a healthy manner. Initially, I viewed this experience as unfortunate and stressful, but now I realize it taught me so much. I witnessed the vast difference it made in the productivity of the team and how it modified the cohesiveness within the team. Her leadership style was draining on everyone. Highlighting the reality that managers, directors, CEO’s all feel lost at times and it shows in how they lead because they are human too.

As a collective we all have a role to play in our work culture, consider this:

1. Serving others is a reflection of love. Research has shown that, in a variety of settings, making it clear how the work benefits other human beings has improved performance and protected people from stress and burnout. Radiologists evaluating CT scans increased their diagnostic accuracy 46 percent when the CT scans included facial photos of the patients. The most effective leaders inspire people by clearly articulating how the work they do together is helping other human beings and how each person’s individual role on the team makes a difference.

Solution- Frequently find unique ways to show how valuable their roles are...not only through words or during professional development reviews.

2. Love pulls together Taking time to get to know and care for the people you lead brings about greater unity. This is needed even more than ever as there are so many things which pull us apart. This unity is especially important as your team faces adversity and the never-ending changes within organizations and the world we live in. The connection they feel helps them overcome the inevitable obstacles- Solution- Create meaningful team building experiences...maybe interactive workshops...lol. Joking, as much as this is true, obviously it is not the only way. Having team challenges or unique appreciation initiatives work well also.

3. Love overlooks minor offenses When love is present in a team, department or organization, people are more likely to assume the best in others and give them the benefit of the doubt. For example, if a colleague says something that is irritating, they may be inclined to cut them some slack. Instead of bringing about retaliation, rivalries or attempts to undermine their performance. Solution- Offer workshops which increase the teams capacity to forgive, have compassion and understand various reasons for behaviors (i.e.symptoms of a mental health problem).

4. Love reduces stress In one research study it found that solution-workplace environments found that those cultures that lacked supportive relationships increased the risk of mortality by 240 percent, which makes sense when you consider that chronic stress is a leading contributor to premature death. Toxic stress makes people feel fearful, timid or paralyzed. Solution- When the team and/or organization is flowing smoothly take that as a time to debrief as to what would have supported them more. What is the overall "love language" of your workplace? Some critics say that love makes a team, department or organization too soft. I believe it is "Hard to be Soft", but it is through finding effective ways to express this “Softness” we can all reach excellence. Love can be a powerful competitive advantage and maintaining a solid self-care practice and building compassion increases the likelihood of buying into this way of being. Your Time is N.O.W.

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