Loving Well, Sans Weirdness

by Jonathan Cottrell


While integrating love in business may sound nice as a theory, the real question is how to do it without it getting … weird. Of course, like anything in life, love can be a bit messy. But, for the sake of everyone, it doesn’t have to be mushy.

Loving well and fostering such a unique culture is helped by these simple steps.

Build Authentic Relationship

It all starts with relationship. Before a business owner or manager starts throwing the “L” word around all willy-nilly, it’s important to sit down with team members and be authentic, perhaps even brutally honest. The best way to cultivate authenticity from others, of course, is by leading with authenticity. Take charge by getting personal with stories about past struggles, opening up about family matters, and sharing interests outside of work. These types of conversations carry real power to start business owners and team members on the path toward knowing one another on a deeper level. It’s impossible to build a culture of love within business without a culture of authentic relationship.

Show True Care

Once a tone is established, it’s important that a leader keep consistent in showing her care for team members. Whether needing to write post-it note reminders or use task management software to follow up later, keep asking colleagues how things are going outside of work. If a co-worker shares that her daughter was injured, show up with a get-well-soon basket. If an employee got married last year, ask him about their first year of marriage and what they have planned for their upcoming anniversary. If a difficult colleague likes Rihanna, buy him tickets. In short, a business leader needs to prove that she’s truly listening to people as they share what matters in their world.

Nothing Is Off Limits

Of course, there will come a time after building trust with team members that it becomes hard to love them. It’s wonderful when talking about or dealing with the happy stuff, but what matters more is how a business owner treats a partner after he throws her under the bus, when a customer gets angry, once a top manager resigns, or as an employee says that he needs money in advance of payday. What she does to show love in the annoying, challenging, grit-her-teeth moments is what matters more than when it’s easy. In fact, this is when love is truly proven, not just preached.

Say the words

It’s happening. By this point, a business owner has built trust, relationships and patterns within the walls of her office. Now, there’s no reason to hold back what she’s already proven by her actions.

“I love you.” Say it. Niceties like “Good seeing you” or “Talk to you soon” are no longer required once true intent has been established. By this point, a business leader should easily be able to stop with the handshakes and start with the hugs, because nothing says love like a friendly embrace.

Talk About It

As a leader establishes a culture of love within business, it’s essential to talk about it openly. How does that make people feel? Does the word alone make others uncomfortable? What does love look like in a business environment without it crossing the bounds of weirdness for everyone? These are important questions to ask, and they should be safe to ask.

When aiming to build a culture that prioritizes love first within the organization, wherever that leader is within the ranks of the org chart, there is one key rule that must be understood: Lead first.

“I love you” are words that have the power to move businesses forward as team members build authentic relationships — and cultures. Managers and co-workers can set the ball in motion with a simple question, like, “What’s going on in your life outside of work?”

A serial starter, community builder, and self-proclaimed cranial nudist, Jonathan Cottrell serves entrepreneurs and their communities in Love as the chief entrepreneur officer of Hopscratch and early instigator behind local movements like #yesphx and PHX Startup Week. 

Love in Business: A Three-Part Series

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