The Power of Love

Three weeks ago the New York Times published an article about Google’s Project Aristotle, its rigorously researched effort to crack the code on what the key attributes of high performing teams are? If you didn’t get a chance to read the story, here’s my grossly simplified take on what their team of stellar researchers determined to be the answer to that important question:


Yup, love. Love as measured by everyone on the team feeling like they have an equal voice, that their voice is worthy; that their voice is lovable.

The second attribute? Everyone on the team feels like the other team members have empathy for them – empathy, the not-so-distant cousin of love. And third, the idea that in their participation on the team they are allowed to be who they are and not have to pretend to be somebody else. That they are loved without condition.

The Google folks referred to all of this as "psychological safety".  I call it love.   Love is the power behind high performing teams.

It’s also the power behind high performing businesses and the secret sauce of high performing leaders. For 21st century leaders understand that the more they can imbue their employees with a love for the vision, a love for the journey and a love for their participation in it, the more likely they will achieve their business objectives. But to motivate employees through love requires connecting with employees with love. And that’s where most leaders stumble.

They stumble first on the idea that the job of leadership is to help people soar beyond their own comfort zones. Because in order to do that requires them getting outside their own, to first connect with their self and their own fears and desires. That’s called intimacy, and it’s really uncomfortable stuff. Intimacy with self is just like intimacy with an employee, it demands absolute transparency, absolute truth. And that’s the second stumbling block.   The truth has few shades of grey and it often hurts so we avoid it at all costs. Unless we love ourselves (and them). If we do, we are motivated to “go there” because we know we are going there for them. And when we do, we find that connections are made, clarity is achieved, and what comes next has a far greater chance of being the right thing.

Fundamentally love is the power behind all highly effective relationships.

Professional or personal.   Not love as defined by hearts and arrows, but love as defined by a willing embrace of the simple concept that what the other person thinks, what they want, what they need, matters. That better outcomes happen when we look at the task, question or problem through the eyes of the other. It sounds simple but our fragile psyches often blur that view and our subconscious desire to be right, to not be wrong, to protect ourselves, to just get our agenda done takes over. We look not through the eyes of our loved one, our child, our partner, our employee, our customer, our prospect, our friend, our enemy, but through our own. And the result is funnily enough what we would expect, not what we want.

What say we work harder to unleash the power of love?

Karen Stein