What do you love and what do you loathe? If this question stopped you in your tracks, good! It’s different from the usual question about your strengths and weaknesses because it has a far stronger emotional connection. There is a link between love, work, leadership and success.
Research tells us that successful people at work love at least 20% of what they do. I am noticing that the word ‘love’ is creeping into a lot more management and leadership conversations with clients, not the soppy kind of romantic love, but the deep connection between love and work. This marks a pivotal shift in leaders getting closer to what really motivates and drives their people. For the past twenty-five years, New York Times bestselling author Marcus Buckingham has been the world’s leading researcher into strengths, human performance, and the future of how people work. His forthcoming book, Love + Work focuses on how love and work are inextricably connected, something I have always believed.
Says Buckingham: “I believe in breaking systems that are meaningless, and don’t help people express their unique strengths at work. Systems that (to say it bluntly) crush humanity and diminish the unique and individual power of people. And I’m so okay with stirring up the established power structures in the process – if it means putting people ahead of systems.”
“I’m also deeply committed to helping people LOVE the work they do. Decades of research prove that doing what you love every day is the #1 driver of both engagement and performance. People are most creative, resilient, attractive, happy, and motivated when they play to their strengths most of the time. This is not a belief. It’s the science.”
“Work hard, but you also need to love what you do,” is what the head of an agile, high-performing digital transformation team, I work with, tells his people. He is alluding to the fact that excellence without love is just punishing, hard work. The quality and precision of our work will always be better when done with love.
The use of the word love by business leaders and senior leadership teams is a good start but you must dig deeper if you want to inspire action. Hunt with intention to discover what people love. Love is an energy source for their best work just as it is for yours; versus fear which is unsustainable (I see a lot of fear-driven burnout in teams). Then, you need to gather these insights with interest to make sense of them, to inform how you will lead your team to get the most out of them — with love.
WHAT IS WORK?
Work refers to anything in which you invest time, effort and energy. It’s where you contribute value, not just in your job, but in all areas of your life: leading, managing, parenting, educating, community work, associations, etc. You are, after all, a whole, integrated person with many avenues of self-expression. Hopefully, your effort links more to what you love than what you loathe. If it doesn’t, then you need to make some changes bearing in mind that you will never love everything you do but you need to love enough of what you do.
Here’s something to help you over a cup of coffee…
A QUICK HUNTING AND GATHERING EXERCISE
Take five minutes to fold a piece of paper in half and jot down your loves and loathes without judgement. These have often been with you since childhood so go back a bit beyond just the present.
Think about people who like things to balance who go into accounting and finance; problem solvers who become engineers; detail-oriented people who land up in event planning, creatives who work in advertising or those with a spatial skills (often neat freaks too) who may become architects or capacity planners for container ships. You get the idea. We are delving into who you are and why you do what you do.
Clue: Pay attention to which activities you find yourself leaning into. What does your instinct draw you to? When does time fly by without you noticing, when do you get lost in the flow of what you are doing and what gives you a kick of satisfaction? These answers will provide clues about what motivates you positively or triggers you negatively.
Next, take a moment to consider whether what you do for a living leans more towards the loves or loathes on your list.
Clue: When you are more aligned to your loves you experience flow; things just click, you inherently seem to know things, and learning new stuff is easy and makes sense.
HUNTING, GATHERING AND FARMING ARE IMPORTANT
In your professional and personal leadership capacities, you must become more aware of hunting, gathering and farming for loves because they galvanise performance and achievement. You need to be a person fuelled by your loves and strengths to build teams that are driven and motivated in the same way. What are you hunting for? What are you gathering? What are you nurturing or farming?
Everyone naturally carries within them the hunter-gatherer. I can help you put these hard-wired archetypes to good use, to:
- Shift towards open leadership and away from top-down, command and control
- Crowdsource input and ideas from everyone in your team so it’s not all on you
- Improve the quality of your team’s contribution to the business
- Strengthen ties of belonging and togetherness
- Become a more in touch and in tune leader (of yourself and others)
- Raise engagement and productivity in your team
- Help your people grow and feel a sense of purpose
I use experiential learning to help senior leaders guide their teams, to elevate their performance, and raise their game.
You can watch the video below about my business presentation that unpacks the hunter-gatherer metaphor that will help you and your team flourish through chaos and uncertainty.
Here’s to flourishing through uncertainty with focus and love.