On this episode of the Love in Action Podcast, Marcel Schwantes is talking to Helena Clayton, a researcher who focuses on the practical application of love in the workplace. Helena has been working as a coach and facilitator for 25 years, helping organizations through struggles and challenges from a foundation of love. They talk about what is possible in organizations when you lead with love – and what it looks like when you do.
· Helena has found that as a coach, you get access and information about difficulties and pain that people usually keep to themselves – and when you approach them with love, and bring them to the group, healing can happen. She eventually asked: “How can the love in practice that happens individually find its way into organizations?” Marcel notes that this is critical because fear, pain and toxicity at work can lead to poor health outcomes for workers [03:25]
· Marcel asks Helena what made her decide that her research was really needed now, and she shares that when she told her colleagues she was going to be focused on love, people were skeptical. Although the idea has gained more traction, there is still resistance to the concept. “The word love comes with connotations of religion, romance, inappropriate sexual conduct, or sentiment.” Different definitions are needed, and she has uncovered several high-level strands of how people think about love in the workplace: care, listening, holding strong boundaries, and acceptance. [06:00]
· One of the questions Helene explored in her research was “What would it be like if love were present in the workplace?” She and Marcel discuss the responses to that question, noting that people believe they would benefit hugely if it was the case – bringing their best selves to work, being less fearful, being more able to collaborate, and ultimately be more creative and innovative. [12:10]
· Getting down to brass tacks, Marcel points out that there are still many people who say: “This will never work for my company,” and asks Helena what she would say to those people about the difference that love can make. She says it’s a question of leadership philosophy, what are the assumptions we make about what work is? [18:40]
· Helena and Marcel talk about masculine vs. feminine traits in leadership, and how they don’t really align with gender – all people have the capacity for all traits, even if they display some more than others. Helena reminds us that “Love is a core human need,” and Marcel adds that we have the capacity to love people at work – it’s only that modern workplace culture dictates we suppress it. [25:20]
· If we talk about love, we might end up developing practices that are about empathy, compassion and nurturing. If we start with a big word like love, we end up with that, but if we start with a smaller word like compassion we get something watered down. This is why intentionally talking about love is so important. Helena recommends just start the conversations: “what we think about, we bring about.” [31:20]