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Love is all you need

6 Comments

Since Tim Sanders wrote the best seller “Love is the Killer App” (published in 2002) the word love has crept ever more widely into business usage.

But what is love? And what does it really mean in a business context?

People have been writing about love since …, well, since writing began, I’m sure. There’s even the beginning of a psychological literature on the subject, although perhaps not quite as much as you’d expect for such an important subject.

I don’t really know for sure what love is, but I want to offer an opinion and maybe start a discussion.

In my view, we’re definitely not talking about “falling in love”, that thing that appears at the start of a relationship, but quickly fades. Steve Jobs and John Sculley fell in love – at first they could see no faults in one another; but they quickly fell out of love too, and came to see each other in very different ways.

Yes, we are talking about giving, and caring for others, along the lines of Sanders’ book. But critically not in a co-dependent way. Co-dependency is where two people feed each off each other; where they get their own needs met from the other.

Sometimes supplier-client relationships are like that: there’s an imbalance of power – often the need for money is exploited by one party. Sometimes it’s more subtle than that: maybe the supplier has a lot of knowledge but simply needs to be heard. He or she may end up virtually giving away what they have.

So, for me, true love, “inter-dependent love”, is where both parties already have ways to get all their needs met. And where they are aware of their needs and choose for them to be met, at least partially, through a business relationship. Where they commit to the relationship, despite the inevitable short-term ups and downs, because they believe in the long-term mutual value.

Their awareness of their needs means they know how to stop the relationship swinging into co-dependency – in other words they can walk away when they need to, if the relationship becomes abusive.

This all requires “adult” behaviour, straight talking and agreement to work together symbiotically. For the best of both individuals, and as a pair. In the best relationships, both also choose to give a little more than they may take – to put money into the shared “bank” rather than always take it out.

This is all fairly simple to understand. But, boy, is it difficult to do.

Certainly, in my business life, there have been times when I have confused “falling in love” with love. Often with a project, and sometimes with a business partner.

There have also been times when I have not been aware enough of my own needs to be able to sit on them when I needed to. To be able to stop them driving my behaviour. Sometimes it’s been as simple as not being able to say “no”.

And I haven’t always had the skills to confront my business partners when I or the relationship needed it, in a way that protects and enhances the relationship rather than making it worse.

Many professionals, and not just those in the caring professions, do achieve this level of client love, I’m sure. In fact, maybe that’s what it really means to be a professional? To be always able to act in the best interest of your customer or client. Even if it hurts.

But wouldn’t it be great if more business relationships were built on this basis? Our businesses would have truly amazing customer service. Really fruitful account management. Great client relationships, and more successful, more profitable business partnerships all round.

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Author: Pete Burden

Strategy, Leadership and Organisational Coach I am an experienced strategy, leadership and organisational coach. I work with the MDs of purpose-led businesses - people using the freedom, flexibility, and practicality of business to disrupt the world in positive ways.

6 thoughts on “Love is all you need

  1. From time to time I read of a clergy trying to accommodate science into his doctrines, or more rarely a scientist trying to square his religious belief with his day job. I am never convinced and wonder why we are so bothered to blend these different realms. As my favourite physicist put it one teaches humility of the intellect and the other humility of the spirit. You can draw upon both wells if you are so inclined (he didn’t by the way and nor do I).

    I had a similar feeling reading your thoughtful piece: an attempt was being made to bridge the unbridgeable or at least if you manage to throw a bridge you are using love in new and distant sense – and maybe business too – and I am not sure what lands are properly connected as a result. It just doesn’t puzzle me but I am glad it does you.

    Please keep the posts coming.

    J

  2. My take is that we need to start treating business relationships in the same way we do our personal relationships i.e. for better or for worse. Far too frequently we ditch suppliers or get ditched as suppliers because there’s been a problem and rather than discuss it, sort it and come out the other end stronger.

    The same is often said of personal relationships these days – that people are too quick to end a relationship rather than work at it.

    The idea of working at the relationship with some clients or suppliers is often too much to bear but this is arguably because we have gone into the relationship for the wrong reasons.

    Usually the wrong reasons mean the dosh. When it comes to appointing suppliers we far too frequently appoint them because they are cheap and when it comes to clients we win the work because we need the gig to hit our targets (maybe even survive in this climate).

    When do we appoint or get appointed because we share the same values and think we can have a longer term, mutually beneficial, enjoyable, fruitful relationship?

    Maybe, if and when we start thinking like this – thinking about the long-term, rather than the short-term. Then we’ll start to see some interesting things happening.

    Don’t get me wrong the odd knee trembler (as my colleague Peter puts it) has it’s place but love is the killer app.

  3. Julian – many thanks for the comment.

    I find what you write intriguing… I suppose all I am saying is that business is really about people. And when we say “people” what we really mean is “relationships with people”. And relationships, for me, are either about love or something else.

    So my question would be “what is business about if it’s *not* about love (and relationships, and people)?”.

  4. Ray – again many thanks for the comment.

    It’s a great idea – that this problem arises because we focus on the short-term and not the long-term.

    What would we have to do to make us focus more on the resilience and strength of the relationship than the short-term gain I wonder?

  5. Pingback: Learning from the Walrus of Luuurve… « deboxing

  6. Business and organisations do not tend to be comfortable with vulnerability and/or intimacy, so hardly surprising they struggle with love.

    This was a thought provoking and timely piece, Pete. I have been reflecting on it for the past week, and it inspired my most recent blog as well – so thank-you 🙂

    Steve
    http://www.deboxing.co.uk

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