I have been enjoying Love Works by Joel Manby. It’s a leadership book. It’s one of those books that, when you are reading it – or listening, in my case – you’re thinking, “Exactly!” the whole time. It’s like you already knew the concepts, but it took another person to articulate them and make sense of them with stories and examples.
Love Defined: Joel Manby defines love as being a verb. It’s not the mushy romantic feeling or the word we use when we REALLY like something. We throw the word love around to mean all sorts of things, but the Greeks had many words for different kinds of love. For the sake of leadership in a work setting, the word for love discussed by Mr. Manby is agape. Agape leaves feelings out of the equation and focuses on commitments and decisions.
When leading with agape love, there is an ongoing tension between watching the bottom line and creating a great place to work for the team. But I think Mr. Manby is right that these goals are not mutually exclusive. It’s important to keep the proper balance. Profit and growth as the only objective will not nurture a team or a great culture in a company. But focusing on culture and pleasing the team to the detriment of your financial goals is not loving either. You can’t be stingy OR overly generous when leading with love.
The Problem With Being Overly Focused on the Bottom Line: It seems everyone has worked for a company where they felt like the leaders only cared about the bottom line. You feel like an expense. You know you have great ideas and skills, but you have no motivation to do more than necessary because you are not valued as a member of a team working for something bigger. Your boss may even be annoyed at the extra time you spend generating ideas if you were hired for something else, like entering data into a tax software. Sadly, this kind of leadership will hurt the customer in the end.
Leaders with this focus may be greedy, but they may also be afraid. Business owners know that when there is not enough to go around, we are the ones that don’t bring home the paycheck. That fear can cause us to be tight fisted and not lead our teams with love.
The Problem With Being Too Giving: On the other hand, when business owners are overly generous to their team members, the bottom line can suffer. There are many ways to motivate people other than a hefty salary once basic needs are met. You will love your team well if you can keep the bottom line healthy. Just like parents sometimes say no to kids for the good of the family budget, you as a leader in your business must balance taking care of your team without spoiling them for their long term good.
Sometimes you have to say, “no.” (Sorry team, we can’t move into that pricey downtown office.)
Sometimes you have to say, “wait.” (We’ll look at a new computer for you as soon as we bring in two more new customers.)
And sometimes you can meet in the middle. (I can’t quite raise your salary by that amount, but how about…)
Leaders that are overly generous may be people pleasers. They want their employees to like them. They are like the parents that spoil their kids but can’t pay the mortgage. Or maybe they feel guilty having a little extra in the bank if their employee has had a personal emergency and money is tight. Maybe this leader just loves being the hero for the struggling employee.
Dealing With this Tension: It can take a while to find the right balance and it’s always evolving. Your people and your company are not static so you have to stay on top of taking care of both. But when your team knows you care about them, they will do amazing things for you and for your customers. One of my favorite quotes from the book sums this point up really well, “The enthusiasm of the guest experience can never rise any higher than the enthusiasm of your own employees.” If you want to take care of your customers, you have to begin with your team.
Joel Manby has been featured on Undercover Boss. You can watch the episode here: