Is there a place for love in the workplace? Some people would answer with a resounding “yes.”
During the last decade of my first career, I spent a lot of time on airplanes. Because I lived in Detroit, Delta was the most convenient and sensible airline to fly, but I have to say I was intrigued by how many times highly respected business consultants speaking about great companies would use Southwest Airlines as an example. They would raved about their experience with Southwest (in a good way).
So, I decided to read Lead with Luv: A Different Way to Create Real Success, by Ken Blanchard and Colleen Barrett. Wow, what a story. First of all, Southwest leads the airline industry in all important metrics, and they have been profitable every year since their founding in 1971. I realize you probably already know this, but most, if not all, major airlines went bankrupt during that same period — some more than once.
Of all the things that could be discussed when it comes to a successful company like Southwest Airlines, what did former Southwest President Colleen Barrett select to talk about in her book? Love.
A short time after I had finished reading Lead with Luv, I was at the gym and a friend who knows I read a lot said, “Hey, I read a book you would like. It’s called Love Works, by Joel Manby.” There it was again: love. What my friend didn’t know is that I knew Joel back when he was the Saab North American CEO. Needless to say, based on the title and the author, I read the book.
Joel Manby is now CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE). I wasn’t familiar with the company, but according to his comments, it’s a very successful Disney park-type business. Just like Colleen Barrett, Manby credits HFE’s founders, Jack and Peter Herschend, with creating a very special culture focused on a love of the park guests and their love of the HFE team members. Manby concludes that as a result of that philosophy, the HFE venture has been a huge success, and he offers many specific examples of making difficult business decisions that involved balancing “profits” and “love.” (My mentor, Frank Moran, was fond of using the tightrope as a metaphor for making decisions.)
I would strongly suggest that you read both books. For some of you, it will be very encouraging; for others, it may cause some discomfort — but that’s OK.
If I were to anonymously interview some of your team members about “love” at your company, what would they tell me?