Attending a fringe event is a smart way to be a part of the, sometimes more adventurous, conversations surrounding the main event. They are often in workshop format so it’s hands-on and your takeaways are actionable. An example of this is the ‘Leading with Love’ Meaning Conference fringe event that I went to, run by Leadership Coach Helena Clayton. When I was looking over the schedule of events on offer, that title immediately caught my attention, it was so different to all of the other workshop titles I’d ever come across, at Meaning or elsewhere – my curiosity was sparked and I just knew I had to attend!
The workshop was based on Helena’s research report called ‘Leadership and Love, The Heart of the future of work’ published by Roffey Park and asks the question “What part does love play in leadership?” and explores the reasons why love in business matters. Get in touch directly with Helena if you’d like a copy of the report and its findings.
The upshot of Helena’s message was to challenge the status quo; so that we can bring our whole selves to work without fearing exposure or vulnerability. So that corrosive feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression caused by company culture that prioritises ‘corporate austerity’ policies over mental health and wellbeing are eradicated in the workplace, for example. So that we don’t feel the need to sacrifice our emotions in order to be deemed a team player, for example. Helena and her research advocates for ‘love as a core competence in organisations’.
Why? Why is it vital to change the status quo and advocate for love at work, for ‘leading with love’? Helena’s research says:
“humans work best in a loving environment – love is a core human need.”
“love helps us feel safe and when we feel safe we’re able to be ourselves and take risks. We can do what needs to be done rather than what we need to do to keep safe.”
“we need to counterbalance the Victorian work approach of making money, the focus on processes and systems and the scientific underpinning of work that requires us to be emotionless.”
With more love at work, according to Helena and her research, we would:
- ‘shine more brightly and have personal joy and satisfaction’
- ‘be able to push myself more’ and ‘make braver decisions’
- ‘be less competitive with each other’ and ‘have more trust, more sharing, more giving’
Additionally, ‘Unusual responses to pervasive and complex challenges would emerge’.
Does this resonate with you?
Do you think that you’re lucky if you have ‘personal joy and satisfaction in your work’? That it’s not a given and being in paid employment is the more important element? Perhaps that’s one of the driving factors for people to set up their own businesses. To create a business doing something they love doing which would lead to being happy in their job. The work ethic I was brought up within values diligence and resilience where character building, knowledge and skills reap the rewards of economic stability, status and professional success. Personal joy and satisfaction is therefore a result, and does not necessarily play a significant role during that journey. It would be nice and we’re ‘lucky’ if that happens. I had often been told to separate my personal life with my professional, that’s been the model I and my fellow generation Xers followed as we struck out on our own. Millennials are modelling something different. They are saying that’s not enough anymore, that a paycheck isn’t worth it if it doesn’t make them happy or feel purposeful.
What does Helena and her research mean by love at work?
Care: empathy and compassion, kindness, what’s right for that person, nurture, encourage, protect, giving, wellbeing
Listening: full attention, genuine interest, giving people your time
Sacrificing: prioritising others, generosity, contributing to them, sacrificing your personal time to help others develop, ‘eating last’
Accountability: boundaries, setting and adhering to high standards, holding a high bar, having the tough conversations, giving feedback
Acceptance: really ‘see’ people, whole person, ‘all broken and wonky at some level’, warts and all
– Helena Clayton
Do you experience this in the work environment you work or lead within? Helena talked about why people find the concept and practice of love at work problematic. Her research showed that people equate ‘love at work’ (as described above) to weakness. And weakness ‘doesn’t belong in the workplace’. Others said that ‘it feels flaky and unprofessional’ or ‘it’s too personal and intimate and over the line of what’s acceptable in the workplace’.
The problem I related to the most was a ‘fear of what love demands of me’ because love at work also means accepting love, not just giving it.
Working in small groups, we discussed why love matters to each of us, what our own version of love is at home, at work and in business and then began to dig deep into what might be blocking us and why love at work is problematic – in general and to us each individually. Exploring what’s needed to work with those blocks, what risks are involved, taking a stand for love at work and how to put this into action also formed part of the discussions. The workshop was fascinating, I enjoyed being a part of the discussions and thinking about how we can bring more love at work to our company.
How can we, as Helena says ‘develop and cultivate the conditions for love in our organisation’? This has stayed at the forefront of my mind ever since. I am grateful to the other attendees as well, especially those who shared my table, as everyone was incredibly open and forthcoming which meant we all came away inspired and feeling… well, feeling loved.
I’ve kept in touch with Helena after the workshop by joining her mailing list and reading, when I can, her newsletters and blogs. If, after reading this blog post, your interest has been sparked, please do visit Helena’s website to explore further.
I’d love to know what you think about love at work – does love in business matter for you? Please leave your comments below.
Meg Fenn, Director of Shake It Up Creative