WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A CLIENT SAY, “I LOVE YOU”?

DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory, and Steve Jeffs.

The strangest thing happened in a recent project meeting with an important client we’ve been creating organizational culture change with. As we’ve always done each of the last seven months, we listened to her ups and downs, shared in her triumphs and frustrations, and then strategized creatively about how to better bring about the needed change. We selected action items and set our course for the next month. Seemed like the same meeting we always had with our clients. Yet, it ended completely differently than I ever remember in all my twenty-five years as an organizational psychologist and consultant.  

We had just finished acknowledging her in very specific ways, calling attention to the power of her optimism, her belief in her people and their ability to change, and the significant impact of her relentless focus. She beamed widely and shyly thanked us. Then, as Lisa and I turned to go, she said, “I sure love you guys.” It caught us both by surprise, but it was easy to reciprocate: “Love you back.” That’s how the meeting ended – and it was several days later before I began to realize the significance of what had happened. 

I was thinking about how rapidly change had come to this client’s culture, and the seeming miracles that were unfolding. Where turnover had once been high, now retention was up. Absenteeism, which had been troublesome, was down. Grievances were diminishing. Employees who once blamed their leaders now were trying to work alongside them to solve problems. Millennials who had seemed ambivalent about work were now showing excitement, and energizing others around them. In fact, the most adversarial employee of all was now enthusiastically preparing for a managerial role, wanting to make a real difference. He truly had made a complete one-hundred-eighty-degree turn around: from blame and disengagement to powerful purposeful contribution. He seemed to embody the culture change that was sweeping across the organization.

It got me thinking. What might happen if everyone truly loved their clients, their bosses, and their coworkers? What possibilities would we create together if we did? What problems would we solve, and how would business be different? More importantly, how would people be different if love was given room to be part of the work equation? 

For some, thinking about bringing love to business may seem ridiculous and soft. Yet, the hard evidence keeps suggesting that it is anything but soft. Have you ever seen disengagement improve without real caring? Have you ever seen people work hard to change in the absence of feeling the safety of genuine love? Will demanding more of people, or threatening them without compassion ever inspire them to work harder? I doubt it.

I guess the real question to ask then, is, “what if the answer to the complex challenges facing business today is to bring just a little more love? Wouldn’t it be amazing if it were just that simple? 

Then again, maybe it is that simple.


Written by DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory, and Steve Jeffs, who lead the People Acuity Thought Leader team and are the authors of the book Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living. They are also the creators of a validated people culture measurement tool evaluating Work Joy, Team Connection, Confident Vulnerability™ and Proactivity. Between them they have worked in nearly 60% of the Fortune 500 and Global 1000 firms and collectively hold over one hundred certifications and international and national recognitions. To book one of them as a speaker at your next event, or to learn more about rising to the new Human Economy standards, contact info@peopleacuity.com