“The willingness to die for another person is a form of love that even religions fail to inspire, and the experience of it changes a person profoundly.”
― Sebastian Junger, War
If you are familiar with Go Beyond LLC, what we teach and how we work, the word Love in a business context will be familiar. When you choose to operate out of Love, business is never business as usually. The above quotation from Sebastian Junger describes love as the primary motivation for why soldiers fight in combat, but what does love mean in a business context? I use it to mean unselfish service to others — willing the good of the other and acting accordingly regardless of cost to self.
My first blog post under the Go Beyond banner, back in 2011, was on the topic of Love and Respect as the basis of higher levels of leadership.
In this post I want to explore when operating from Love gets difficult. How do you love the business owner who unceremoniously and without warning lets you go and gives you a reason that you both know is bogus? How do you love a trusted member of your inner circle who begins to actively start rumors, misrepresents your policies, and tell lies about you? How do you love the customer who unexpectedly cancels a contract you just renegotiated, a contract you were counting on? These are real examples of things that have happened to me.
I do not love like this perfectly. In some cases, I spend more time wrestling with my pain, wounded pride, anger, or sense of righteous indignation than I do showing love. But I am making progress.
Showing love in your personal life can be difficult. How do we show love in our business life? I’ve found these three steps for loving people who have hurt or disappointed me: forgiveness, passive love, and active love. They work in business as well as in personal life.
Step #1. Forgiveness. Recuse yourself from the self-imposed responsibility to punish the person who hurt you. It doesn’t mean what they did was okay. It does not mean their actions didn’t cause you harm. It means you aren’t going to torture yourself with bitter resentment and thoughts of getting even. Letting go frees you to heal and move forward. In general, forgive people for being imperfect, flawed, and fallible human beings, because we are all imperfect and flawed. However difficult, forgiveness allows you to move into the passive loving stage.
Step #2 Passive Love means that you will take no action intended specifically to harm the other person. Examples include not talking bad about them, not forming alliances against them (except perhaps in the sense of normal competition). It means not actively trying to hurt them or their business. This stage is actually pretty easy. However, there many be times when your lingering hurt turns to anger and you feel tempted to badmouth the person in question. If this happens repeat Step #1 and forgive them again.
Love and Respect go hand in hand. If you happen to run across the person at a meeting, conference, or social event, treat them with dignity just because they are a fellow human being. Being polite and respectful will put you on the higher ground and bolster your reputation among observers. It will also probably draw the other person toward you, especially if they regret having hurt you in the past.
Forgiveness and respect, however, do not mean that you are required in any way to let the other person position themselves to hurt you again. Have you done the hard work of putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and considering the former circumstances from their point of view? Have you concluded the other person acted out of malice or lack of self-control, is unrepentant, and would likely harm you again if given the opportunity? If so, it is perfectly okay, even advisable, to be forgiving and respectful from a distance.
If, however, you have done that hard work of considering the hurtful encounter from their point of view and determined that no malice was involved, there was a misunderstanding, they weren’t well informed or were misadvised, they had good reasons for making a difficult business decision, or they made a mistake that they now regret… you can move into Active Love.
Step #3 Active Love means that you take positive steps to make things turn out well for the other person, whether or not you stand to gain from their success. In the case of the business owner who let me go, I accepted his apology; recommended his company to business associates; invited his company to join my company’s team on a large contract; and, I said yes when he asked me to help rebuild his company’s market share in a sector where I have expertise — even though it wasn’t the kind of consulting work Go Beyond was created for and we had to give him a special discount on price.
In the case of the client who cancelled the recently renegotiated contract. I put myself in his shoes and saw the tough choices he had to make. I realized that it wasn’t personal and there was no malice in cancelling the contract. I decided to embrace the opportunity to spend the time attracting projects more in line with Go Beyond’s strategic direction. The Active part is that I keep the former client top of mind, provide him information and leads on business opportunities — even if I’m not likely to gain personally.
As for the inner circle betrayer, well I am still bouncing back and forth between Steps 1 and 2. I may never get to step 3. Sometimes you just can’t.
Although Love is not an idea most people associate with the business world, it is actually an important part of high performing companies. Hopefully these examples of loving hard-to-love people a business context have been helpful. If you want more information about leadership based on Love and Respect, please contact us.