A Four Letter Word That Will Transform Your Business
February 19, 2012
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make”
~ John Lennon and Paul McCartney
I use to get annoyed by Valentines Day. I considered it a cash grab perpetrated by the greeting card, floral, lingerie and confectionery industries to get American consumers to pay $18.6 billion (according to the National Retail Federation) in order to materially express our love for our partners. A ritualized example of commercial hucksterism.
When reflecting on Valentines Day and the profit derived from the notion of love, it occurred to me that if businesses really “occupy” the notion of love in their corporate cultures, profits would flourish, leaders would be more fulfilled, and the ripple effect would transform the social and environmental crises facing the planet today.
The Business of Love
Why is there no love in corporations? Why is love all but stricken from the corporate lexicon?
First, as business people we are mired in the distorted paradigm that we need to “compete” for “our fair share” – win/lose thinking, which is based on the assumption that there aren’t enough resources for everyone to live in material abundance. Scarcity is based on fear – fear that there won’t be enough. And fear and love – as opposing polarities, cannot co-exist.
Second, love is misperceived as “soft” in a hard corporate world, when in actuality, to lead with an open heart – the source of love, trust, connection and empowerment – requires real courage, and is the only true source of power. A much more skillful way to live and lead.
Finally, the model of capitalism was built on the limited notion turned self-fulfilling prophecy that self interest drives human behavior. From there it has grown into a pathological pursuit for more, perpetuated by an epidemic of fear.
As a result, love in business is a misconceived anomaly – strange bedfellows that rarely exist in-tandem. But that is changing. We’re at the precipice of a social transformation in capitalism, and leaders that ignore this do so at their peril.
A Call For Courage
Imagine a courageous CEO, a mindful leader, prepared to operate from his heart as well as his head. A CEO who has asks the questions – How can I serve? What is my purpose and what is the purpose of business? What is driving my life – my ego, or an intelligent force field based on love? And what if I try on love as a corporate mantra – compassion and caring for all my stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, community, even my competition? Imagine a company with a higher sense of purpose, that is totally endearing to all its stakeholders. What would that look like in terms of profit, market value, joy, peace, fulfillment!?
Heartshare Equals Marketshare
Professor Raj Sisodia wrote an excellent book, called Firms of Endearment, where he profiled 30 companies operating from this place of compassion and service, and empirically demonstrated that not only were their employees happier and more engaged, but their stock market value outperformed the S&P 500 over a 10 year period by a factor of 8.
As human beings, whether we admit it or not, our greatest need is connection and relationship, the source of which is love. That source also happens to be the most powerful creator of enterprise value. Employees want love – caring and connection – to each other and to a higher purpose. Customers want to be in love. The brands of Starbucks, Google, Whole Foods, Harley Davidson, Apple could be considered “Lovemarks” instead of “Trademarks”. And if customers can’t find love, they’ll settle for the cheapest price instead of paying you a premium.
There are many great pioneers in private and public companies who realize that emotionally intelligent leadership is at the heart of this new value revolution. They realize that “heart-share” is a more skillful intention than “wallet-share” – ultimately leading to the greatest profit and value creation. Below are a few:
Innovators Embrace Love and Build Great Wealth
- Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, one of the worlds largest advertising agencies described the highest level of branding as creating a “lovemark” as opposed to a trademark, service mark or copywrite.
- Southwest Airlines, NYSE ticker symbol, “LUV”, known as “the love airline” is the only airline that has been profitable every year since it began in 1973. CEO Gary Kelly explains his differentiator as “People working together, lovin’ each other, people respecting each other”.
- John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods worked with his team to create a “Declaration of Interdependence”, which acknowledges that all stakeholders are like a family whose members depend on one another.
- Honda “marries their suppliers for life”; Once suppliers earn admittance into Honda’s supply chain, they’re supported in improving their quality and profitability.
The truth is capitalism, in it’s current form, isn’t working. But capitalism can work. And profit growth can catalyze vital balance in a world out of order. It just needs love. We need to step outside our paradigms of scarcity and competition, and step inside a new paradigm of service, of giving, of caring. We need to become aware that the unconscious drive of self interest only leads to wanting and dissatisfaction, and replace it with “enlightened self interest”, aligning and serving stakeholder interests. Why? Simply because it works. It’s the most skillful way to build value, and create happiness.
R evol ution is an inside job. But until we move past our own indoctrination, embedded by a world that is mentally ill, we won’t know what re evol ution is. We’ve come a long way, and clearly the beginning is near.
As part of your strategic plan, I invite you to ask yourself how you can build more love into your brand and corporate strategy – by aligning, caring for and serving all your stakeholders – customers, employees, investors, suppliers, community and globe alike.