What’s Love Got to Do with Work?

If companies want growth, learning, innovation, creativity, collaboration, and resilience, they need to create workplaces where people can find and experience love, passion, and express emotions.

In the early 1980s, Tina Turner recorded “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” It became her first and only Billboard Hot 100 #1 single. It is a catchy tune, one that prompted me to ask, “What’s love got to do with work?”

“Love + Work: How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life” is the title of Marcus Buckingham’s latest book published by Harvard Business Review (HBR). Buckingham admits that his book would not have been a hit in the ’80s, but the time has come to connect love with work, and he is out to create a movement.

Recently, I participated in the “Love + Work Leader Series” sponsored by HBR. It was a series of live Webinars with Buckingham discussing his book and answering questions. Since I also had the opportunity to interview Buckingham, I am going to write a series of articles in “Leading Edge” about what I learned.

3 Ways of Discovery

The pandemic has put the spotlight on the need to attract and retain employees, especially top performers. Buckingham is known for the statement: “People don’t leave bad companies—they leave bad bosses,” and the most immediate manager is the person most influential to job satisfaction. Now he claims, “People leave bad teams.” Team leaders need to wake up and pay attention. As he notes, “Most of our workplaces are loveless.”

Buckingham believes that instead of the traditional chain of command, we should be thinking about “chain of attention.” Now more than ever, leaders should be paying attention to employees. The pandemic gave employees at all levels the time to re-evaluate their lives. Most people don’t want to be a transactional cog in a machine. They want to feel like their lives matter. At this time in history, employees are in the driver’s seat.

If companies want growth, learning, innovation, creativity, collaboration, and resilience, Buckingham advocates creating workplaces where people can find and experience love, passion, and express emotions.

We all should know how to find what we love so we can help others find what they love. Buckingham described three ways of discovery.

  1. Identify what you find yourself looking forward to or volunteering for. Your natural instincts are a powerful clue.
  2. Find your “flow,” a concept developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. You’re in the flow when you’re engaged in activities and time flies and it takes little to no effort.
  3. Feel a sense of mastery. This is when you’re done with the task, you feel invigorated and even stronger rather than depleted.

Showing the Love

One way to show “love” and pay attention is for leaders to have a weekly 15-minute “check-in” with each direct report and ask three broad questions.

  • What did you love last week?
  • What did you loathe last week?
  • What can I do to support you?

Buckingham believes that if leaders don’t have time for this simple weekly check-in with each report, then they either have too many reports or they are perpetuating a loveless workplace. He also says the culture can be predicted by how many leaders report directly to the CEO. If the number is greater than 15, the culture doesn’t support paying attention to people. If this is the case, it will be hard to retain and attract the best talent. And love does have a lot to do with it.

Jann E. Freed, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, coach, and leadership development and change management consultant. Her most recent book is “Leading with Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts” (ATD, 2013). For more information, visit: http://www.JannFreed.com.