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The Radical Act of Loving Your People

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”
– Henry Drummond

“Love” is one of those tricky words in English that can have many different meanings. In fact, a quick online search tells me that—according to the ancient Greeks anyway—there are officially at least 8 different types. That’s a single word with 8 very different intentions and outcomes!

The type I’m talking about here is love that is about caring for others and treating them as the individuals they are, particularly and especially the people who work for you. As human beings, I believe we are wired to respond to feeling seen and cared about, no matter where we are; so why would we check that need at the door of our workplace? The fact is, we don’t, even if we tell ourselves that we do.

There are those in leadership positions who feel that getting “personal” at work will reduce their leadership effectiveness. I think the opposite is true. If people are in fact wired to respond well to feeling seen and understood, why not put that to use in the workplace?

But wait, I hear you say. That’s all touchy feely, and I don’t do touchy feely. Besides, if I’m too nice to my people, they will try to take advantage of the situation and the work output will go down.

Let me explain.

First, let me be clear that I absolutely am inviting you to love the people who work for you. And that can feel like a radical thing to do. But let’s drill down a bit and talk about what it means and more importantly, what it doesn’t have to mean.

First (speaking of radical), it doesn’t mean you necessarily like every one of your people. You can love them without wanting to hang out with them. You can appreciate the contribution they make without them needing to be someone you would go on vacation with. I’m talking about a form of love that allows you to truly care about each person as an individual—to find something or multiple somethings that you appreciate about them, which allows you to remove any resistance you might harbor—secretly or otherwise—to leading them. I’ve had people who worked for me whom I didn’t especially like, but I still made a point of finding things about them that I appreciated. (For more on that, feel free to read my blog post here.)

Loving your team also does NOT mean that you don’t hold them accountable. As people you care about, you in fact make sure that you consistently offer them the gift of accountability. Holding people as accountable for the things they already know are theirs to do is not only your job as leader, but it’s also an act of respect and an opportunity for your people to experience the pride of doing their job, and doing it well.

So how do you do all this? I boil it down to what I call the “3 C’s” of Caring, Connection and Communication, which is a structured way of leading people in a way that has them blossom under the warmth of feeling seen and cared for.

Caring means that you take the time to get to know every person who works for you and treat them as the individual they are. Connection refers to a variety of tools you can use to demonstrate that you care. And communication means the variety of ways you make sure your team knows what their job is, how that job connects up to the vision and mission of the organization, and how they know whether they’re on track or not. (For more details on this approach, feel free to check out this free report .)

Lennon and McCartney wrote “All You Need is Love.” In any endeavor involving human beings, while it may not be the only thing we need, I do believe it’s the most important. And you can bring that quality to the workplace in an appropriate way that will make you a standout manager and leader, and create a super loyal team that will walk through the proverbial fire for you and for each other.

So love up your people. And watch them blossom and grow.

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