A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans are almost equally divided on social issues. What’s more, our views on science have become increasingly partisan, with 40 percent of employees favoring vaccinations while 30 percent strongly oppose them. Employees aren’t agreeing on where they should work either: 30 percent prefer to work exclusively from home, 50 percent want a hybrid model, and 20 percent prefer working on site.
The question becomes, “How do you unite a workforce?”
In the midst of all these divergent opinions, one thing we can all agree on is that our workplace could use more love—love for what we do and the purpose we share. You’ve caught me in a moment of greater reflection because I just had lunch with my friend Tommy Spaulding who wrote Heart-Led Leader, and I was equally inspired by a lively conversation earlier in the day with bestselling author Steve Farber, who wrote Love Is Just Damn Good Business.
Farber explains that if we don’t love our company, people, values, and culture, then we’re just going through the motions. He says that a leader who doesn’t engage their full heart for the work they do may get things done, but they never create that incredible environment that is contagious to customers. Farber credits The Customer Comes Second, saying that authors Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters make a critical point: if you don’t win the hearts and minds of your employees—your greatest asset—you can’t inspire loyalty from your customers.
If love can unite your greatest asset, how do you operationalize it? In a climate where employees are not only diverse but also dispersed, Farber explains that we have to raise our game. We can’t rely on working in person, reading each other’s body language, or getting together socially at the end of the workday. We have to work harder at connecting now. Here are some of my takeaways from Farber’s suggestions.
Work with what you do have
He says that while many of our calls now are held with videoconferencing, what we do gain from the socially distant setting is a glimpse into offices, living rooms, and homes. It gives us a chance to say, “Hey, I didn’t know you had a dog” or “What’s that instrument you’ve got in the background? Do you play?” These are all things we probably should have known already, explains Farber, but videoconferencing is a friendly peek into our teammates’ personal lives, which helps us connect on a greater level.
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Look beyond your own projections
You may be thinking that working remotely is your dream come true because the time you’ve saved traveling to and from work can now be spent with your partner or children. That’s not the case for everyone. Farber encourages us not to project our own feelings onto others. Some employees may find that it’s isolating or depressing. They may thrive on and need that workplace setting. Try to channel your empathy, ask questions, and actively listen to your colleagues when they tell you how they’re doing. Not everyone finds the remote scenario a boon to their schedule.
Ask a simple question
“Why do I love this team, and how do I show it?” Farber says this question is a great way to prime your thinking and get you started with brainstorming about ways you can show support, encouragement, and gratitude. There’s no single answer. Showing your love and appreciation for the individuals and the team is different for everyone. Farber is a big believer in providing context when he talks with someone about a new effort or initiative. This is a perfect way to embed meaning and convey to the person, “What you’re doing is worthwhile and incredibly important to me.” Sharing passion and showing trust are two great forms of love.
My day with Steve Farber and Tommy Spaulding was a welcome return to the leadership principles we know to be true. When you can positively influence and show passion for your people, your purpose, and your culture, there’s not much that can stop you. Not even diverse views and a remote workforce. Farber’s encouraging reminders to work with what you do have, look beyond your own experiences, and ask yourself a simple question are all valuable for increasing the love in your workplace. Why do you love your team, and how do you show it? Let’s start answering that question today.