What matters most to you in life? The vast majority of people answer this question with one word: Love. Yet so many of us tend to put our hearts to the side when we walk through the door of “Money and Work.”
Doing the research for my latest book, Love for No Reason, I interviewed experts on love: more than 150 people including scientists, psychologists, spiritual teachers, and people whose lives are rich in the qualities of the heart. What they told me is that true success comes when you bring your heart—and its love—to your workplace, whether it’s a corporate boardroom, office cubicle, retail store, or restaurant.
One of them, aromatherapist and author Allison Stillman, told me a remarkable story about following her heart’s lead at work:
In 1998 a friend of mine who was starting a litigation software company approached me and asked if I would work with him. I’d always been a heart person and didn’t know anything about software technology or litigation, but he convinced me that my people skills would be an asset. So I set my aromatherapy practice aside for a time and dove in.
After a steep learning curve, I became the marketing director of the company. For the next six years, I traveled to corporate boardrooms and some of the largest law offices in the country, meeting the power players in the world of corporate law. Still, I let my heart lead the way. I saw each encounter as an opportunity to find the deeper human qualities in everyone I met and to connect from that level.
In the sixth year of my marketing career, the CEO of my company accepted an infusion of cash from an investment banking firm to take the company to the next level. To safeguard their investment, the banking firm sent one of their executives to work with us. The executive, whose favorite description of herself was “bitter and twisted,” spent the next few months following me around and learning the business.
Then one Friday at 5 pm, she called me into her office. “Allison,” she said, “I’ve been observing you for four months now and I’ve never seen anything like it. Your sales team, senior management, your clients, the support staff—everyone loves you! Clearly, your priority has been keeping this lovefest going and it’s worked.
“Well, today is the day that ends. I need you to take that same energy you’ve given to cultivating relationships and direct it to the bottom line. Can I count on you to do that?”
It took a nanosecond for my heart to inform me, “It’s over.” But I only said, “Let me think about it over the weekend, and let’s talk about it on Monday.”
Over the weekend, my mind catalogued all the reasons that I needed this job. I’d just bought a new house; I had car payments and bills that required a salary. I had stock options, health insurance. But it didn’t matter . . . I knew I couldn’t leave my heart out of my work.
On Monday morning I walked into the executive’s office and gave her my notice. I stayed to train my successor and then followed my heart’s promptings out the door, where my life unfolded in wonderful ways I could never have imagined. I found part-time consulting work—which led me to meet the man who would later become my husband—resumed my aromatherapy anointing practice, and wrote and published a book. Today I am rich in all the ways that matter to me.
The company however, didn’t fare quite as well. Ms. Bitter and Twisted’s “bottom line first” campaign effectively removed the heart of the business, and over the next two years, the company died a slow and painful death. It’s what happens when you take the heart out of any living organism.
To bring more heart to your own work life, make a point to look for “the person behind the persona” of everyone you meet. The next time you walk into a meeting with a new client, look around his or her office to spot clues about what matters to this person: photos of family members, pets, trophies, artwork, magazines—anything personal. Then ask a genuine question about it and watch the response. If the person smiles or their face softens, you know you’ve found their heart.
The key to experiencing more Love for No Reason is to remember we’re people first—and businesspeople second.
Originally published at LearningStrategies.com.