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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking

MOMENTS IN LOVE: HOW TO BUILD AUTHENTIC ENGAGEMENT WITH ANYONE

2021-02-09 09:33

Cathryn Barnard

Blog, EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT, FUTURE OF WORK CONSULTING, ENGAGEMENT,

MOMENTS IN LOVE: HOW TO BUILD AUTHENTIC ENGAGEMENT WITH ANYONE

What can a ground-breaking theory of what love really is teach us about engagement, change, leadership - and the future of work itself?

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In the depths of what must have been the most dismal January ever, I had an epiphany. The catalyst was a book called Love 2.0 by Barbara Fredrickson. 

 

Fredrickson is a US psychologist researcher, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her specialism is positive psychology and the impact positive emotions have on health and wellbeing.

 

Love 2.0 offers a ground-breaking theory of love. Rather than the traditional person meets person, monogamous, happy-ever-after narrative that pervades our culture, Fredrickson argues that love is in fact a moment of micro-connection that takes place between two (or more) individuals as they connect with one another in a shared moment. 

 

This can just as easily occur between two strangers in an airport lounge as between two partners in a committed relationship. 

 

These small and fleeting moments leave us feeling uplifted and heart warm. They’re visceral moments we can’t fully articulate, but which nonetheless leave us glad to be alive. They’re the flashes of togetherness and warmth that we share as part of our hardwired need to belong.

 

What’s equally compelling is Fredrickson’s research that reveals an astounding link between love and health. These micro-connections strengthen our vagus nerve, which, scientists have discovered, plays a key role in immunity, and wider long-term health. This explains the link between social isolation, disease and premature death. 

 

And just like that, I realised that these micro-moments describe perfectly what engagement is. 

 

Love and engagement

The heady mix of external engagement with customers – to build brand trust and loyalty – and internal engagement – to build alignment and high performance – must surely be the Holy Grail in business today. 

 

There’s a reason why, for example, Google invested so heavily in Project Aristotle and the quest to understand what makes a team effective. It also explains the West Coast trend for microdosing – where high performing individuals experiment with psychedelics in a bid to ‘hack’ peak performance.

 

The firms that have truly nailed team engagement and high-performance are few and far between, and to bottle their magic formula would yield boundless opportunity. 

 

There’s no doubt for me however, that every single time I’ve felt peak engagement and performance has been underpinned by a micro-moment of connection. 

 

The problem with micro-moments is, of course, that they’re hard to describe, and even harder to measure. Certainly, the sterility of a NPS evaluation can’t get close to capturing the gold that sits within them.

 

And yet these moments are the bedrock of human relationship. 

 

They’re inextricably linked with trust, commitment, community and shared meaning. As moments, they’re probably the closest thing to euphoria that we can discern – there are scant few feelings better than the one you experience when you’re entirely synchronised with A.N. Other. 

 

Love and change

As much as these moments fuel engagement, they’re also arguably the linchpin of organisational change. 

 

Change is fundamentally a step away from the known, towards the unknown. 

 

And while we humans are in a state of continuous change every single day of our lives, change – particularly externally-mandated change – often feels overwhelming and scary. Our typical response to change we don’t understand is resistance.

 

This is why robust, inclusive, multidirectional flow of communication within our organisations is the only way to make change stick. 

Powerful, empathic conversations help us collectively understand what’s changing, why it’s changing and how it will impact us personally. There’s a reason why the magic formula of gathering and conversation underpins the success of support programmes like AA and Weightwatchers. 

 

Love and leadership

To be a good leader in the 2020s requires a re-evaluation of the essence of leadership. 

 

21st Century leaders aren’t leaders without followers. And followers are gained conversation by conversation, micro-connection by micro-connection. 

 

Since organisations of the future will be infinitely more agile, fluid and shapeshifting in nature, effective leadership will increasingly rely on authentic empathy, communication and connection.

 

Love and the future of work

The role of technology in the future of work is a given. We know the world ten years from now will look entirely different. Technology offers the potential to help solve our greatest societal and environmental challenges. 

 

What’s less clearly articulated however is that these gains will only be achieved when we do the heavy emotional work of pulling apart what ultimately it means to be human. That’s where and how we’ll create the experiences that build trust, loyalty and commitment. 

 

In fact, love is the antidote to technology in the future of work.

 

Embracing both technology and moments of connection is how we’ll solve the great environmental and social issues of our time – bringing us back to our truest selves, and enabling us to achieve our highest potential. 

 

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Looking to dive deeper into some of the areas covered in this blog post? Check out our Navigating Talent RiskRecruitment and Retention and Foresight Focus reports and products.

 

References: 

Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection. New York: Plume | Penguin Random House

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