The Four-Letter Word You Can’t Say At Work

I’m a “love” person. It’s a regular part of my communication. I loved hanging out…”We’d love to visit with you…”I’d love to help…it adequately captures my emotional expression in the moment.

But when I got into the business world my first boss chided me on the practice. “That’s not professional, Betsy. Find another word.”…It made sense I suppose, too flowery, too emotional, too much baggage.

But then I ran across a branding book by Kevin Roberts at Saatchi and Saatchi that says all beloved brands, brands that cultivate deep loyalty in customers, are successful because they have the correlation of two variables:

  1. Respect
  2. Love

By respect, Roberts means producing a consistent quality product over time. Think Honda, Dell, & Duct Tape. We buy these brands because we know we can count on them – they fulfill on their promises. But by love, Roberts means the ability to engage customers emotionally, connect with their needs, and inspire them.

Think Apple. Even opening their products causes surprise and delight. They’re intuitive, helping you do what you need to easily. And their “why” behind it all is helping you be fully alive. That’s why we love them. And love is what ties hearts to brands. Love breeds loyalty and identity. It’s what makes people unashamedly say, “I’m a Mac person”, “I’m a BR gal”, I’m a HOG”. It’s not just analytical, it’s emotional.

I say all that because companies that create strong internal brands, brands that are beloved by their employees, use the same methodology. They respect their people. They’re dependable on pay and benefits. They clearly define job roles and performance expectations. They keep their people in on where they’re going. Employees stay because they can count on them. But companies who “love” their people don’t just have faithful employees, they have passionate, engaged, productive brand ambassadors.

So how do we cultivate love in our companies? The formula Roberts gives is simple. We cultivate love through: Sensuality, Intimacy, and Mystery. I know you’re blushing, but let me go on…

1. Sensuality – think senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

Employees want to feel valued. Do you celebrate achievements and important milestones? Do you facilitate opportunity for people to engage as humans at work? Do you create experiences that reinforce your culture and leave a positive impression of your brand?

2. Intimacy – think known-ness, connection, understanding someone for who they are.

Employees want to be more than a number. Do you know them personally: their birthdays and significant life events and are you acknowledging or celebrating them? Do you know them professionally: Do you know their career goals within your company? Have you created a development plan for them? Are you finding ways to offer challenging work to help them grow?

3. Mystery – think stories that draw us in, that say something about our “Why”.

Employees want meaningful work. Like everyone else, they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. How are you telling the story of why you do what you do as a company? How are you explaining their part in this great story and celebrating their contribution?

So maybe we should start saying “love” more at our work. Or better yet, maybe our work should look more like love. I’ll bet our people would notice.

HowLove”ing is your brand?

  • What experiences are you creating for your people? How does your brand make them feel?
  • Is your company showing employees you know them and are thinking ahead for them?
  • What story are you telling your people about why you’re in business and what part they play?