How leaders can build and bake love into the culture of their workplace

It used to be quite common (and for some, it still is), to hear “check your emotions at the door” in relation to the workplace. The (now outdated) thinking was that you shouldn’t bring your emotions into the workplace or let your colleagues (especially your boss!) see them.  

In more recent years, the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) has been increasingly at the forefront for workplaces, particularly where leaders are concerned. EQ is our ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as to recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others. It’s ultimately how we perceive and use emotions to interact with and relate to others in varying situations.

If emotional intelligence is needed to be a more effective leader (and we believe it is!), it stands to reason that emotions would be part of the workplace. Of course, our expressions of emotions are on a spectrum and there are certainly some emotional extremes that would be unacceptable to outwardly exhibit in a work environment. That said, a human-centered approach is integral for trust; trust is at the core of impactful leadership, and we are not human without emotion. In fact, some, like Jack Ma (business magnate, investor, and philanthropist), believe that in addition to IQ and EQ, leaders also need LQ (love quotient) which incorporates soul, belief, and values.

How can leaders show love in the workplace?

Showing love starts from a genuine foundation of respect, trust, and care. From there, it’s both the day to day ‘little things’ and the more intentional aspects that you build (and then bake) into the culture of the organization. The little things range from a simple smile, asking about weekends, greeting the person you’re reaching out to when you’re contacting them for the first time each day (e.g., even on IM, rather than the first message being “Where’s the X file?” try, “Morning! Hope your day is going well. Do you know where the X file is?” It takes less than 10 seconds!).

Other ways you can bake love into your culture include:

  • Showing and expressing appreciation, acknowledging contributions, and celebrating wins; in other words, telling your people you love them
  • Acknowledging your people as humans, getting to know them/what’s important to them/who’s important to them/what they do outside of work. Levi King (Co-founder/Executive Chair of the Board, Nav) goes so far as to interview two employees each month about their life stories, which he turns into essays to share at company meetings – with their permission, of course. As Levi describes it: “It’s difficult work, but it’s one of the best parts of my job. I gain insights into my team that I couldn’t achieve otherwise…” 
  • Making time to engage with/check in regularly and meaningfully and providing/being open to receive honest, open feedback; although this is one of the areas we often hear managers say they “don’t have time for”, we believe it’s the single most important role of a people manager
  • Getting together outside of the office/work environment
  • Taking time, solo or with your leadership team, to understand your blind spots, your challenges, your strengths and stretches, and learning how you can better apply them for the benefit of your people
  • Not letting stress, busy-ness, overwhelm, fear, uncertainty, and competing priorities get in the way of respect and people interactions; rather, appreciating that these are realities we all experience, and embracing them with transparency, realness, and courageous vulnerability
  • Creating a workplace culture of care and self-care

Refer also to one of our past posts on creating people-first workplaces.

Bringing a full range of emotions into your work

Humans – whether at home or at work – experience a broad range of emotions. Just like we do at home or out in the world, we get angry, frustrated, irritated, disappointed, sad, anxious, and exasperated (to name just a small few) at work.

We also experience joy, delight, excitement, awe, gratitude, hope, and yes… love.  

Every emotion we experience – whether we consider them positive or negative – contributes to deeper connections with people and fuels creativity and innovation.

Of course, experiencing emotions at/during work doesn’t mean that we should openly act on them in boisterous ways each time we feel them (e.g., yelling loudly in anger or dancing around/bellowing “woohoo!” when clients are around). EQ and indeed, LQ – in all relationships/situations – is based on our ability to notice/be aware of, acknowledge, reflect on, and manage our emotions in accordance with the circumstances.  

With Heart Month and Valentine’s Day as a starting point,
isn’t it time to tell your people you love them?