Hello PPMA friends

With our Annual Conference in Manchester just around the corner, Helena Clayton, Leadership Development Consultant & Coach, Researcher, Writer and Speaker who’s running one of the workshops, gives us a delicious taster for what’s in store. She’s undertaken new research that clearly shows that more love in our organisations would be good for people and performance. But it’s problematic. So how can HR and OD contribute to developing more loving cultures in public service?

What’s New

“In my leadership and organisational development work, and as a and coach, I see burnout, anxiety and depression, stress and mental health issues increasing as a result of the relentless drive for efficiency and constant organisational change. I also see a lot of fear and people who are just about keeping a lid on things.

It seems timely and urgent to seek ways to counterbalance this. Maybe time to make the bold claim that what could help here is love.

But what do we mean by that? Can we separate love from its over-connection with religion, romance and sex, and find a new ways of seeing and talking about love so that it can be a robust and pragmatic source of support for us as we navigate tough times in our organisations and beyond.

From a pilot research study into love in leadership with 76 people there were several themes worth exploring for HR practitioners and people managers. Three are:

  1. Love does matter in organisations

Love matters. Respondents said ‘humans work best in a loving environment – love is a core human need’ and that ‘if love is important in life, why wouldn’t it also be important in the workplace’.  Love helped them to feel safe, and feeling safe meant they could take more risks. Connections with other people would be much stronger and more open.  They also felt that we needed love to help us ‘counterbalance the Victorian work approach of making money, the focus on processes and systems and the scientific underpinning of work that requires us to be emotionless’.

What could be possible in your organisation if there was more love?

  1. Love is problematic

But some respondents found love uncomfortable or very uncomfortable to talk about at work. With its connotations of either romance or religion, it might be understandable to some extent. But that’s not what people were uncomfortable about. Instead they felt talking about love ‘would make me appear weak because generally love is perceived as weakness and weakness doesn’t belong in the workplace’. It felt ‘flaky and unprofessional’ and ‘too personal and to be acceptable in the workplace’. People felt that ‘others will be dismissive’ and ‘the place for love is firmly at home and not work’.

What do you see as blocks to love – for yourself and in our organisational system?  And in our society?

  1. We define love as …

When asked what was meant by love, care was the word used most often by respondents. Listening came a close second with the ability and willingness to put aside your own stuff to give undivided attention and the gift of being heard. This isn’t leadership as a performance art but as genuine interest in others. Then came empathy and compassion and the ability to see something through someone else’s eyes and experiences. Even ‘hyper empathy’, for one respondent. There was also a theme of setting high standards – holding ‘yourself accountable first’ and also holding high expectations of others. This required having the courage to hold them to that, and having the difficult conversations when necessary. This is the part of love that says no, holds boundaries and is clear, direct and challenging. Finally there was a cluster of words or phrases that equated to really seeing and accepting people for who they are, warts and all, no matter what.

How do you define love? And is it different in and outside of work? What’s not on that list that you would include? “

Helena’s workshop on Day 3 of the Conference will take these themes and go deeper into each area, sharing new research and providing an opportunity to talk about what this means for us in public service and as HR and OD managers developing purposeful work for our people. Book your place

Helena Clayton, Leadership Development Consultant & Coach, Researcher, Writer and Speaker