I have been working with people in business for 30 years, starting as an employee of IBM facilitating change, then under the wing of some of the pioneers in the world of coaching (before coaching was a thing), I then set up on my own and since founded my consultancy practise. I have worked pretty much with every business sector at every level. I have travelled the globe, working with people from every continent, I speak English, American and Australian. I was born in Australia of European parents, have a Dutch husband, my two kids were born in the UK and we all live in Southern Spain and I can tell you across the board something about people in business. People are uniquely amazing AND we’re all the same.
In work (as well in life) we just want to connect. We all want great big juicy powerful positive connections with the people we spend time with — yes even (if not especially) at work. And I know for sure the simple key to achieving great performance in any endeavour from nation to nation, sector to sector, from the top team, to the shop floor is this: Big ambitions require Big Relationships.
We all long for connection; with something meaningful, with each other and with ourselves. In business and in life, creating powerful positive connections for the people who count helps us all reach our goals. One word for this powerful sense of connectedness is…Love. And this is what I have learned is an essential business truth: Love Sells.
To create this powerful sense of connection and build the kind of Big Relationships that make a business thrive, it requires three fundamental things:
Unity: A Unifying Purpose (so people love what they do)
Appreciation: A “We” Culture (so people love each other)
Ownership: Individual enterprise, accountability and creative freedom (so people love themselves)
So what is an Appreciative Culture ?
In the 90’s Learning organisations adopted the phrase ‘no-blame culture. Well I’ve decided we need to go one step further — I think we need what I call an Appreciative Culture. This means a real and genuine focus on appreciating people, what they are good at and playing them to their strengths. It means cheering them on and noticing when it is working and making it easy for people in the business to do that with each other too (think how well it works to train dogs and small children; ignore the bad, attention for the good). It means that as a practise, people always stand in each other’s shoes and avoid judging and try and see that everyone makes mistakes and when we lose, we don’t lose the lesson. We see people as individuals and give people chances to put things right, and if it’s not working, we are considered, honest, firm and fair because sometimes the kindest thing for everyone is to set someone free. In an appreciative culture feedback is frequent, primarily positive and always at the request of the person or team who want to grow. And in an appreciative culture everyone wants to grow and be the best they can be.
Being connected helps us to take ownership, think more clearly and creatively, make better decisions and take better actions, leading to better results. Creating a culture of ‘We’ versus the cult of ‘Me’ makes great business sense. It saves a lot of time, money and effort that can be wasted on addressing behaviours that are largely driven by insecurity and fear. The cult of ‘Me’, where the ego reigns and survival is the game, might work in the short term — but I’ve seen it generate debilitating stress, bleed talent and damage really great businesses. Insecurity might drive you, but you’ll go further for love.
In fact, when talking of survival of the fittest Darwin was actually arguing that ‘we are a profoundly social and caring species and our tendencies toward sympathy are instinctual and more evolved than the instinct for self-preservation’ Dachar Keltner
It is also my experience that people are amazing and truly capable of greatness, all of us. When we have a clear state of mind, operate in a culture of appreciation and have trust and good will with others as the foundation blocks, it feels good and we want to do and give more. We naturally consider others’ needs and offer a spirit of generosity, caring and kindness. And when we get treated like this by others we flourish and thrive. Don’t just take my word for it, latest research into cultural impact on financial performance has also concluded: ‘we can categorically state that organisations with high levels of cultural alignment will have superior levels of financial performance’ Richard Barrett Barrett Values Centre.
When people are connected, they feel fulfilled and happy. According to the research over 75 years in the Harvard Grant study, ’the warmth of relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on life satisfaction. Happiness is love. Full stop’. Happy people = happy customers = happy results.
A company is no more than a bunch of people at the end of the day, and perhaps to accompany profitability, it’s the charge of business to provide the environment and rocket fuel to allow people to grow and shine, in order to benefit society. Big relationships and a culture of appreciation work for everyone: leaders, staff, customers and stakeholders. They will work for any business, they will work for yours. It makes business sense, stability and success and because: Love Sells.
If you’d like help to build an Appreciative Culture, get in touch - I’d be happy to chat.