The Heart of High Performing Teams

Corporate culture doesn’t tend to warm to the word, “Love” but science is saying that leaders ought to wake up to the fact it has a strong influence on workplace outcomes.

The more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they are.

Before you get all giddy, or rejecting of this claim lets define the type of ‘Love’ we are talking about here. In this definition we’re talking about “companionate love” which is far less intense than romantic love.

Companionate love is based on warmth, affection, and connection rather than passion. This is the type of love that evolutionary brain science links to the fact that we have been built to be social creatures.

E.g. Neuroscience has confirmed areas of the brain (pre-frontal lobes) are designed to regulate and balance the relationships we need to be high functioning, healthy, optimal, collaborative human beings.

Even those with misguided beliefs about Charles Darwin have to take notice when they realise that he wrote in The Origin of Species: … ‘In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate…most effectively have prevailed’.

Building an emotional culture

So it’s no scientific surprise that those who perceive greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, but few managers’ focus on building an emotional culture and that’s a mistake.

One recent study from the University of Pennsylvania (What’s love got to do with it – The Influence of a culture of companionate love) demonstrates how important emotional culture is when it comes to employee and client well-being and performance.

Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork. They showed up to work more often.

The first round of thisresearch, (held in a healthcare environment) also demonstrated this type of culture affected client outcomes, including improved patient mood, quality of life, satisfaction, and fewer trips to the ER. All of which

  • Saves money
  • Saves time
  • Supports already stretched or diminishing resources

While this study took place in a long-term care setting ­— which many people might consider biased toward the “emotional” — these findings hold true across other industries.

They also conducted a follow-up study, surveying 3,201 employees in seven different industries from financial services to real estate and the results were the same.

People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another­ were

  • More satisfied with their jobs
  • Committed to the organisation and     
  • More accountable for their performance

So what does a culture of companionate love look like?

Imagine a pair of co-workers collaborating side by side, each day expressing caring and affection towards one another, safeguarding each other’s feelings, showing tenderness and compassion when things don’t go well.

Now imagine a workplace that encourages those behaviors from everyone, where managers actively look for ways to create and reinforce close workplace relationships among employees.

Some large, well-known organisations in the US are already leading the pack in creating cultures of companionate love. Including

  • Whole Foods  Market – Has a set of management principles that begin with “Love”
  • Zappos also explicitly focuses on caring as part of its values.  “We are more than a team though…we are a family. We watch out for each other, care for each other and go above and beyond for each other”.

Of course, fear and apprehension may get triggered if you are seeking to create an emotionally collaborate culture. That somehow this shift will incite mass hugging, perhaps fears of sexual harassment issues and environments promting the all time classic (often male) belief – Emotional displays are signs of weakness!

Surely not every manager will want to gather his team for a group hug every day (nor would every employee be comfortable with that). But there are many other ways to build an emotional culture of companionate love.

Here are three suggestions.

Broaden your definition of culture. Instead of focusing on “cognitive culture” — values such as teamwork, results, or innovation — you might think about how you can cultivate and enrich emotional culture as well. Emotional culture can be based on love or other emotions, such as joy compassion or pride.

Pay attention to the emotions you’re expressing to employees every day. Your mood creates a cultural blueprint for the group.

Consider how your company policies and practices can foster greater empathy, affection, caring, compassion, and tenderness among workers. For example, Cisco CEO John Chambers asked that he be notified within 48 hours if a close member of an employee’s family passed away. At some companies, employees can forego vacation days or organise emergency funds to help fellow employees who are struggling and need help.

Most importantly, though, it is the small moments between coworkers

  • A genuine smile
  • Empathic connection (instead of ‘get on with it’ logic)
  • A kind note
  • A sympathetic ear
  • Genuine displays of collaborative behaviour

Day after day, month after month, that helps create and maintain a strong culture of companionate love and the employee satisfaction, productivity and customer connection that comes with it.

If you would like to receive free resources or more insights on building a high performing, empathic and collaborative culture contact Glenn Bracey:


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