What happens when you steer a business conversation towards the subject of love? In 2012, I interviewed a former PWC partner on the subject of mentoring, and I remember the delightful risk in asking him whether there was a place for love in the role of a mentor. Six years later, with a different business but similar agenda, I spoke to Contexis CEO John Rosling, about values, purpose, and in this clip, the role of love.
“What's that about ?” I asked him. It seemed to be a reasonable challenge. “Why is that when we talk about love in business we have to undermine it with words like hippy and fluffy?” What's wrong with just saying the word and leaving to stand on its own?
The exchange is not verbatim, but it's accurate enough. The challenge was during a filmed Eth Word conversation with a business leader. Just prior, we had been talking about the changing world of work and how trust is an essential element of any purposeful shift in organisational culture. The conversation moved on to the idea that maybe we could also call that trust love. “It may sound fluffy or hippy to say so, but when we talk about trust we're also talking about love,” he said.
The business leader was , the CEO and founder of Contexis, an established consultancy. I don't doubt that he believes wholeheartedly that there is a place for love in the workplace, and in fact said as much:
"Love is what we need in any human relationship because if you don't have love how can you have trust..... and without that sense of trust you're not going to have people working together effectively towards their common goal."
We are both – albeit in very different ways – passionately advocating the use of such language in the workplace, and yet both still feel the need to qualify them with words like fluffy and hippy.
So it's ironic that these so-called fluffy words are so hard to talk about.
It takes courage and leadership to begin a new conversation about how we bring ourselves to work. It takes courage and a surety of self to start a new conversation about love and trust in the workplace.
Ask someone what part love plays in business. See what they say.