Are Love and Business Like Oil and Water?

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I remember when Subaru launched their “Love” campaign several years ago. It highlighted the love that drivers feel for their cars, and a Washington Times article was quick to berate them for mentioning love as a reason for buying a car. According to the author of the article, love is an irrational emotion that has no place in the realm of purchasing decisions or anywhere in business. It’s a common belief that the emotion of love should be barred from business, yet this is highly ironic because love is the one ingredient that can help businesses generate the highest prosperity.

Leading Edge Research

I recently completed a course at HeartMath LLC and learned about research showing the relationship between the heart and the brain. Emotions profoundly impact the rhythmic beating of our heart and the signals it transmits to our brain. These signals cause measurable changes in our brain’s ability to think and process information. When our emotions are positive, emanating from the heart, we are in a state of coherence, where the electrical patterns of the brain synchronize with the rhythmic patterns of the heart. In this state, our brain functions at peak levels.

When we experience positive, heartfelt emotions, such as compassion, appreciation and gratitude, our mind becomes far more sharp and clear. Our cortical function is enhanced and we’re able to see possibilities where previously we could perceive only dead-ends. We’re able to rapidly recall information committed to memory and mentally sift through large amounts of data, finding the most relevant facts and making the best decisions. New understandings about the market place and the organization are quicker to emerge, and we’re more adaptive to change. When leaders consistently foster positive, heartfelt emotions in their teams, their performance skyrockets and enhanced creativity leads to greater innovations.

A recent IBM survey of over 1500 global CEO’s concludes that creativity, adaptability, and the mental aptitude to process growing volumes of data, are the qualities that teams need to succeed into the future. As the business world becomes increasingly complex and fast-paced, employees are increasingly challenged to find local, instant solutions that work. The capacity to thrive in these environments is engendered by positive, heart-based emotions.

In contrast, when our emotions are negative, such as fear, anger, worry, and anxiety, we severely limit learning, memory, cognition, and problem-solving. This causes decreased productivity, poor or short-sighted decisions, difficulty finding the right words and remembering key facts, a slowed reaction speed, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. People and teams in this state simply can’t compete effectively.

Have a Heart

Many corporate environments are riddled with anxiety, sometimes even by design, as many leaders believe that employees work harder when motivated by fear. But as a leader, don’t let conventional thinking convince you that having heart in business is irrational or a sign of weakness. Leaders maximize prosperity not by aggravating people into doing more, but rather by nurturing their emotional health. This is the key to a team’s long-term viability. Among other methods, you can help people feel positive, heartfelt emotions by controlling your own emotions, defining a purpose that resonates, trusting people, and creating more collaborative environments.

As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a writer, speaker and consultant helping organizations strengthen agility and performance by shaping emotional energy. She is a thought leader bringing to light the new science of group emotional energy and connecting it to business performance. She has had a 28-year award winning career as a C-level Fortune 500 executive and Big Four consulting firm professional.
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  1. John Morgan  March 12, 2012

    Love is a fundamental element of Steve Farber’s work as evidenced in his best selling business book, “Radical LEAP.” In fact LEAP is an acronym and L stands for love. You will have to read the rest of the book to find out the other three. I use Steve’s work extensively as a reference in my leadership development classes and seminars. It has a profound impact on the participants.

  2. Gina Hayden  March 12, 2012

    Hello Jackie

    I enjoyed your post and the link you made between the benefits of positive emotion and the IBM’s findings about complexity on the minds of CEOs.

    Isn’t it interesting how business still comes so much from a mindset of separation while the consciousness of humanity as a whole has appeared to gallop ahead towards recognising inclusiveness and interconnectivity. It could be why there is such a disconnect at the moment between the demands and expectations of people in general, and the actions and mindsets of business in general. This clashing of mindsets that we see in symptoms such as the Occupy movement and the outrage about executive pay almost reminds me of the historical division between science and religion.

    Best wishes,


  3. Shevaun  March 12, 2012

    When each person is responsible for aligning their inner and outer voices is when our businesses will thrive beyond our imagination. There must be a level of loving what you are doing, no matter what it is, that is taught from childhood upward. This, along with the fact that doing the most loving kind act is going to reap a positive rather than a negative just because our past history/traumas have taught us otherwise.

    Love is truly the power that is going to fuel the future and a much more collaborative business environment.

  4. Glen Fahs  March 14, 2012

    A southern Oregon manufacturer had Love up on the wall as one of its five values. The trainer asked about it and a manager smirked, “Yes, that needs to be dropped. I don’t love my employees. I love my family.” The owner explained, “As long as I own this company, Love will be a part of it. When an employee is in trouble, we try to help. When someone makes a contribution, we show our appreciation. When there is a performance problem, we give feedback and coaching, even if it is uncomfortable for both of us. We provide benefits and support of many kinds because we care.” When explained that way, all the managers agreed that love, or caring support, was fundamental to their culture and the standard they tried to live up to.

    • Richard Jonkergow  March 15, 2012

      Yes, exactly. Love is not properly understood. Give different words to what we mean and then the word Love is recognized. This is the art we should learn: how to give shape to “Love”, how to express Love.
      What now comes to mind is:
      When people go to church and the priest goes on and on about how Great God is and how we all should devote our lives to Him (he is absolutely right), but who’s God?? What’s God?? (Love is God, God is Love), so similarly when we speak about “Love everybody!” it is not understood what is meant.

      Mankind is able to express Love in infinite ways, but we have 5 channels that we can blend in order to get another expression of Love in form (from formless power/love to a form):
      – Love in THOUGHT (Non-violence),
      – Love in SPEECH (Truth),
      – Love in ACTION (Correct Action/ Doing the right thing or Righteousness),
      – Love in FEELING (Peace),
      – Love for Existence/Being (Also known as Love).

      All values comes from these 5, for example:

      Compassion is Love in Thought and Love for Existence.
      Loyalty is Love for Existence and Correct Action (Though this is projected love, not total love. Loyalty is all-encompassing when love is understood. For example, a Self realized person is always Loyal to each and everything, recognizing what “God” within the other person or concept wants to be done.

      – I am loyal to Subaru for example, is better understood than I LOVE Subaru.

      Love always nurtures the existence of self and others. God is Love, Love is God. God is all, all is in God. Only Love divinizes our community, our business, but love is not understood properly.
      Ego interprets Love as emotional attachment for it’s purpose of self-existence. (I am what I am because of what I think and what I have, therefore I need this and therefore I “love” this).
      Soul knows Love as in “I am all that I Love, the more I love, the more I am, there are no boundaries to my Self” (The ego applies the same, but in relation to our physical body: the more I have, the more I am. Love means Having! Hence, the ego has many Needs as it wants to Have! Love then is very confusing and even creating conflict.. so better just LOVE my family and WORK in my business. Hence the confused egoic person).

      There is a need to teach Love, teach about Love, what it is, how it works.
      In my work I discovered that people often don’t want to go that deep in getting to know themselves (the power of Love coming from inside), they just want a quick performance improvement, not a spiritual teacher and total Self realization of the soul. Although I know that people in their hearts DO want to go that deep, it is the ego that doesn’t want to go there.

      Another reasons why LOVE and BUSINESS seem to be like OIL and WATER is that the word BUSINESS has a very stong pull for the ego. Business is an attractive realm for egoic self-proclamation. Although the goal of society is to teach the people to have unitary faith in Love (understanding what Love is! Love as in organized activity, love as in serving people, love as in including everyone. The power of Love is badly misunderstood because it is unknown by the subject ittself!), In business we have faith in numbers and results. We think these are more powerful than Love because the have more meaning to the egoic self!

      I just closed my “BUSINESS” and having a grand opening of my “COMMUNITY” in about 2 weeks from now. Dropped my work as a coach for business and became a database programmer during the week (to sustain my family and myself physically) and contributing voluntarily to the community as a spiritual teacher over the weekends to live in Love (act out, think, feel, speak and be) and sustain others and myself spiritually. So far I have 7 other volunteers wanting to contribute voluntarily too.

      Let’s see what happens…

      With love : )
      Richard Jonkergouw

  5. Kate Woodhouse  March 14, 2012

    Hi Jackie and all – If not for love, then for what? Your organisation looks fascinating.

    Even at the most basic, we work to survive for love of our physical bodies… and warmth and a good meal, and for love of our families, and even our team, and the love of a challenge, and the chance to grow in love… And so it goes. Perhaps the ad industry, for all it’s failings, does us a huge favour by promoting love along with the products..?

    Because if you thoroughly mix oil, and water with a touch of tartness – you get the most delicious dressing!

  6. Stan Richards  April 3, 2012

    “According to leading edge research, love is the key ingredient for business success.” I think you could cut it back to saying, love is the key ingredient for relationship success. Business primarily being a relationship between customer and retailer. This tends to work fine for the smaller retailers, where if you don’t show the love [to customer & employees] you’re quickly out of business. However things get a little twisted when the customer is also the business’ investor [shareholder]. It’s seems the bigger the corporation; the more money involved, then financial reward shoves love aside. I think many companies are seeing this and are adjusting their ideas, their products are leading edge and they love what they do.

  7. Joe Sasso  April 3, 2012

    The 20th Century was about Industrial Managing and fine tuning the Human Asset. The 21st Century will be about Leadership in the Information, Consciousness, Awareness Age when people are valued for their gifts and talents. We are currently ‘burning out’ a lot of people with overload, and overwork, head over heart business tuning. These are the searching implications of our current economic systems. People are more capable of leadership than most companies give them credit. They are about to revolt. We can all be leaders and should lead from our gifts and talents. “To give anything less than all you’ve got is to waste the gift” Steve Prefontane. Working in your passion is working is your Love. 1+1>3

  8. Todd Decker  April 3, 2012

    I would pose an inquiry on how love then relates to our “noble cause” for Stage 4 and 5 thinking? As Jackie stated in her article “…yet this is highly ironic because love is the one ingredient that can help businesses generate the highest prosperity.” I own a private audiology practice and our revenues are mainly generated by hearing aid dispensing. If we are to focus mainly on the amount of hearing aids sold or the revenue they generate I feel we are missing out on the wonderful life changes we see every day in our patients. To strive for the noble cause “Improving the quality of life in those we serve” my team potentially loves what they do and we “OUT-BEHAVE” because we are focused on life style changes not revenue. When I have this discussion with other business owners I inevitably get a blank stare.

  9. Shashwatta Dutta  April 3, 2012

    I would even go a step further and say that Passion is the key ingredient for success of a business. The financial and human resources are always limited in todays scenario. The extent of stretch we can get out of the same resources will define the success of the business. Passion is the force multiplier that helps a business get more out of the same resources. There is nothing great that happens without emotion. And great businesses happen only with a lot of love and passion.


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