What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Welcome to Week 4 of the SOS Leadership Blog Series:
Creating a Positive Organizational Culture
Each Friday for the next 5 weeks, we’ll be blogging about engaging employees, boosting morale, and creating a dynamic culture. We have an awesome lineup of guest bloggers, some of the best and brightest HR folks around! Come back each Friday to hear their words of wisdom. If you need to be reminded, followSOS Leadership on Twitter and like us on Facebook, and we’ll let you know when the blogs are posted! Happy Friday!!!

Today’s thought-provoking blog post, entitled What’s Love Got To Do With It?, is by Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative‘s Human Resources Manager, Jennifer Foery!

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s Foundation Values include:
Safety
Reliability
Respect
Community
Courage
Love

Love?
I enjoy watching the faces of people when they read our Foundation Values. All of the other 5 values are relatively standard and unsurprising, though no less meaningful. Of course we work in a dangerous environment so safety is going to be paramount. We are an electric distribution cooperative, and reliability is key to our success; you flip the light switch, you expect the lights to come on and stay on. We respect our members; we respect the environment; and we respect our co-workers and ourselves. As a cooperative, our customers (we call them members) and many of our employees are our owners, and our collective involvement in the community is simply who we are. It takes courage to question the process, courage to step forth and volunteer, courage to care about your work and the people you work with.

And Love.

The word itself is multi-faceted. Of the four words the Greeks used to describe this feeling of “love” (Storge, Agape, Eros, Philia), Philia is probably the closest to what LOVE means at Bluebonnet. There are several employees who are members of the same family (Storge), a few who are married couples (Eros); many give of themselves and their time to volunteer, asking nothing in return (Agape). ALL employees share a special bond because of the organization we work for and the experiences we have in common (Philia).

Beyond brotherly love, Love in a business setting becomes more about doing the right thing. James Autry (www.jamesautry.com), in his book and video “Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership” lists four basic elements behind Love in an organization:

1. Trust – Rebuild a sense of community
“If you mistrust people, you make them untrustworthy.”
2, Honesty – Communicate openly and honestly
“If people don’t get the information they need, they make it up!”
3. Special Treatment – Dare to give employees special treatment
“You don’t have to treat everyone the same.”
4. Courage – Be candid and specific
“Anger and intimidation are facades we hide behind.”

I would add that organizations need to be passionate about developing their employees because they deserve it. It increases their self-worth, their value to the organization and to your constituents.
Mr. Autry’s list is not easy. It requires organizations to be accountable and to be willing to have the hard conversations. It requires transparency; in numbers, policy and communication. It also requires employees to speak up when the organization and other employees are not holding true to the covenant. In other words, it takes courage.

Now I don’t want you to think that just because all our employees get a Bluebonnet paycheck that we sit around and sing Kum-ba-ya all the time. We don’t always show that we love each other – sometimes we don’t even like each other, but we are all in relationships; relationships with our members, board of directors, and with each other, and relationships are HARD. How many times have you avoided giving a difficult message because you didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings? Or shut down and shut yourself off because you opened yourself up to another person and got burned and it’s just easier to distance yourself than to feel that kind of pain again? Do you think those dynamics only happen at home?

Our charge then, is to take those imperfections, the tendencies to express our humanity, and figure out a way to improve. How do you do that? You work on it. You have the hard conversations and are honest. Admit when you are wrong and when you don’t have all the answers. Tell people the truth so they don’t make up their own reality.

More importantly however, you have to open yourself up to the experience. Allow yourself to be changed by the people you work with, the people you love because in the end, we are all here because we love and are loved. Our General Manager said it best when he said, “We all go on our individual journeys, but we go on them together. That makes Love our most powerful Foundation Value and gives us the greatest strengths as employees at Bluebonnet and as humans.”

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is one of the largest electric cooperatives in Texas and has been serving its members since 1939. Bluebonnet serves more than 81,000 meters and owns and maintains 11,000 miles of power lines, located across more than 3,800 square miles within 14 Central Texas counties. Bluebonnet’s service area stretches from Travis County to Washington County, and from Milam County down to Gonzales County. For more information about Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, go to www.bluebonnetelectric.coop and follow the co-op on Facebook and Twitter.

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