Years ago, while I was experiencing some shaky times, somebody said to me, “Love and faith are the forces that keep the world together.”
Very strong words, with wide room for interpretation. For me personally it meant: As long as you are able to love sincerely and able to believe (in whatever links to your core values and your emotions), you are in a strong place.
If the people around you can also love and believe, you are in an even stronger position, because then you are part of a healthy social group: a group of friends who are able to be human, support each other, cheer you up when you feel down, believe in you, celebrate success with you, and do not envy you (or admit it sincerely)—people who are happy to disclose themselves, who can admit mistakes and apologize and mean it. Authentic characters who don’t pretend to be someone else to meet expectations—these are people we all want to be friends with.
You might ask yourself: What relevance does this have to the business environment? Why are love and faith important in our work?
Considering today’s turbulent economic, political, and environmental situation, I actually think these things are more important than ever. In our “fast-digital-global-crazy” world, we can easily lose our composure. I am including myself here; very often I would like to take things easier. I feel rushed, and many times I am frustrated that I did not react or make as considerate a decision as I would have liked to. In stressful situations, my language becomes straightforward, direct, sometimes even harsh. I reflect on such situations during the moments of peace that I consciously force myself to take, and think about how I can correct my misbehavior.
There is no easy answer to this, but my personal secret for success is this: Do not leave your ability to love and believe at home – bring it with you to work!
Here are 5 reasons why this is a good idea:
- As long as we can feel a sense of love—not only in what we do, but also with whom we do it—we will stay human and sociable. Believing that you are better than the rest of the world is not only foolish, but also unhealthy for you and the people around you. It makes us angry or depressed (see, for example, Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability). We can see the impact of self-centered personalities in the media every day.
- If you keep your faith, you are driven by strong values. They give you direction, teach you about right or wrong and help you make decisions quickly and consistently. In our VUCA world, these skills become essential. As a leader, you are expected to be a role model, which means being authentic and making plausible, consistent decisions instead of impulsive ones. Even more, love and faith will help you manage new leadership requirements and steer you away from authority-based leadership and into the direction of followership. This describes the ability to create an environment in which people choose to follow you, because they feel high levels of authenticity, integrity, and mutual respect. Managers who believe they can learn those three personality traits just by attending expensive leadership training are deeply wrong. As long as they focus only on the behavioral level (e.g., training-friendly gestures, learning powerful phrases), it remains superficial. And if their core values contradict their behaviors (e.g., “I behave as if we are all equal, but I believe that I am better than you”), employees will sense this contradiction. This will lead to lack of trust, and the manager will likely fail to build strong relationships and foster employee engagement and will not be perceived as an authentic leader.
- Bringing love and faith to work is especially important in our fast-paced digital world, because it will help us to overcome the constant battle that we all experience: quantity versus quality. More specifically, it will help us resist the urge to focus on the quantity of social connections (including digital ones through Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and instead find space for quality social relationships with attentive, deep, and intense personal interactions. This links back to a mindset of mutual respect: We all have likely experienced a situation in which a counterpart was more attentive to their smartphone than the ongoing conversation. This not only feels disrespectful, but it can also lead to misunderstandings and conflicts due to lack of attention.
- Being attentive and mindful is a current trend and is very often considered the key to sustainable health and well-being. In fact, we do see convincing research showing the positive impact of mindfulness and meditation, including increased resilience (a nice summary of research on that topic can be found here). What we sometimes forget is that these are the core principles of many religions: to take time to pray, to believe in the good, and to be hopeful.
- On a more personal bringing love and faith to work will give you personal joy and positivity, which will have a ripple effect on the people around you. Everybody prefers to be around others who are optimistic and see the bright side of life. With that in mind, it is no surprise that research shows that people with a positive mindset are not only happier, but even more productive and successful (see, for example, Shawn Achor’s Ted Talk).
One final point that I think is important: Faith doesn’t have to be linked to a specific religion, or to any religion at all. However, it must be connected to unconditional love; otherwise it risks becoming fanaticism. Love without faith is fine, but it lacks direction. Parents understand the importance of giving direction to their children; that is what parenting is about. Children are eager to get direction, and they love to hear stories with meaning.
The model shown in the illustration about is not scientifically proven, nor meant to be comprehensive. It attempts to visualize in a simplified way my perspective on the importance of faith and love. Let’s be human. It is worthwhile for everyone and everything around us.
That is why I love working in human resources.
Disclaimer: Please note that all statements are my personal views and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the ones of my current employer.
For more insight on fostering a positive workplace environment, see 5 Ways To Become A Better Purpose-Driven Leader.