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Love Them and Lead Them


Love Them and Lead Them

By John Grubbs

Do you feel loved at work?  The Greek term for love that best fits the work environment is Philia.  This type of love is motivated by practical reasons.  In other words one or both parties benefit from the relationship.  Ignorant or poorly trained supervisors and managers are oblivious of the necessity to love employees the proper way.  Sadly, these same struggling individuals often behave in ways that are counter-productive to the love that is necessary to treat employees in the manner that will get the best performance.  Well duh!

Very few companies really understand (or at least act upon the understanding of) just how critical the role of front-line supervisor is in an organization.  In my previous book, “Leadership Among Idiots”, I used the term super-operators to describe the good operator, salesperson, engineer, or nurse that was promoted to supervisor simply because they were good at their current job.  In reality the capabilities (skills and knowledge) to be a good supervisor are completely different from that of an individual contributor.  Think of all the professional athletes that fail as coaches.

Back to the question: Do you feel loved at work?  Do you feel valued?  Are you important?  Will you still be loved when you make a mistake?  Is the love unconditional?  Do you receive tough love when you need it?  Great leaders love their employees and when the employees feel loved they perform at a much higher level. 

How important are you at work?  The value question is often the most neglected.  In fact, most organizations devalue those that mean the most to the success of the organization.  Consider the fact that those who represent our company to our precious customers are usually the lowest paid and experience the highest turnover.  Think of how much we compensate bank tellers, fast food workers, field technicians, retail sales, teachers, and on and on.  So if they are not staying for the money, what else do they get at your organization?  Money is indeed one indicator of value, but there are many others.  Servant leaders treat those they lead in a much different way than traditional leaders. And, if someone feels loved at work, money can become less of an issue. 

According to Forbes, there are four ways to make your employees feel valued.  First, employees feel valued when they are communicated with on the job.  They are told when they add value and told when they do a good job.  Ask for their opinions and implement their suggestions (sometimes even when you are not sure you agree – mistakes are necessary) whenever you can.

Second, let them know when others consider them as valuable.  Share positive comments and give them the credit whenever you can.  Positive feedback can become routine if it is never validated by someone else.  The leader must pay attention and look for these opportunities.

Third, balance the routine work with work that challenges them.  When work is below someone’s ability they feel undervalued.  Yes cleaning the toilet is important, but sitting in on an important meeting can show they really do have value and their opinion is important.  Find as much balance as possible when you can.

Fourth, recognize the individual as well as the team.  Yes, it is much easier to tell the team they have done well but it is much more meaningful to tell an individual when they have performed well.  Never take good performance for granted or simply expect it as trade for pay.  Someone else can pay them too!  And if they are really good, someone else will.

Do you still feel loved when you fail or make a mistake at work?  Your best employees are going to make mistakes.  And believe it or not, the costs of mistakes are collectively far less than cost of the ignorance created in the absence of mistakes.  Honest mistakes are those that are the result of attempting to do the right thing.  Think of it this way, our beloved children make mistakes regularly and we are quick to forgive (even when we are angry).  Yet it is often different at work, why?

Does tough love make a difference at work?  Tough love demonstrates you care enough to take positive action.  The worst thing a leaders can do for an employee is ignore them.  Ignore them when the fail or ignore them when they succeed and the employee will not feel like they matter at all. A recent Smart Company article stated “Confronting poor performers and speaking to them about how and why they're not meeting expectations often falls into the [difficult conversation] basket for most managers. They're never easy conversations to have as they can be fairly confronting for all parties involved.”  Supervisors need to be taught to deliver feedback and most simply do not know how.  Yet, when you deliver tough love the “right” way, employee will love you and feel loved at the same time.  Think about the all the constructive discipline you received as a child.  Consider the emotion you feel for your parents who cared enough about you to correct you when you stumbled.

Love is a verb and a verb implies action.  If you do not interact with your employees, they will never feel loved.  It’s an amazing feeling when someone appreciates the things about you that other people take for granted.  Being loved on the job will build confidence, improve employee and engagement, and improve overall performance.