Love and its Place in Business

Written on Feb 05 2013

What do you talk about when you’re asked to visit a University that’s over 600 years old? I mean, what message can you bring from half a world away that could potentially be of value to a next generation of leaders… And somehow be something that hasn’t been spoken within that institution for over half a millennia?

Earlier this year, I had a chance to deliver a lecture to the students at the University of Leipzig. Referred to the institution by Dr. Rolf Koerber (a personal and professional friend I met through, I was energized by the concept of working with a group of young German leaders.

Before the lecture started, I had a chance to sit down with Claudia Bade, a staff member who was able to explain more about the program. She mentioned that a lot of the students would go on to work in HR within larger German corporations and/or go into social work; their curriculum was centered around management, education, and what makes people tick.

Inspired by a previous conversation with a Dutch banking executive, I shared the importance of love and its place in business. The students, a product of a relatively conservative University, hadn’t heard of the concept of “love in work.” While I don’t want to share a lot of details here (it’s a lecture best heard in person), the rough premise of the talk was simple: employees that love their work perform better. Clients that love your product work with you longer. Companies that love their clients continually outperform. Love is a raw, natural, even primal feeling. To suggest that it can’t be a motivator or simply “disappears” under a suit and between M-F/9-5 was an absurd notion I enjoyed exploring with the students.

One of the more dramatic questions that came out of the audience came from a student who asked: “Do clients that you ‘love’ and vice-versa receive better services?” YES, was my response, without missing a beat. Likable clients produce more productive relationships and yield better business transactions for all parties involved. That also led us down the trail of the true cost of a “bad hire.” Beyond just negative cultural impact (and potential productivity losses from other effected employees), vendors that have been scarred/warned of their key contact within your organization are probably less flexible and will deliver a lower quality of service.

Everyone remembers people they enjoy working for…and people they don’t. The impact of those relationships are felt far and beyond just the internal organization, and also effect vendors, external relationships, and even the community at large.

A valuable discussion for a group of leaders that will soon be leading German HR departments!

I had a chance to close the evening at a nearby restaurant where I got to better know a group of students that wanted to keep driving the discussion. Overall, I learned a lot, and am very thankful Leipzig had me stop by.

I’m looking forward to closer collaboration with the University and potential for future workshops, joint ventures, and more. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.

Thank you Leipzig!

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