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When my business partners and I started Clockwork 20 years ago (yes, 20 years!), we did it because the company we worked at together was sold, but we didn’t want to stop working together. We were originally drawn to one another because we shared a set of values and we saw the world similarly. That connection only deepened when we started Clockwork. We worked really hard and spent late nights, weekends, and holidays together. We did all the things founders do: brainstorm, solve problems, go to pitch after pitch, fret over budgeting and sales–but we did them together. And we rarely argued. Sure, we'd have heated debates, but we never had unhealthy, scary conflicts.
I just knew they had my back and I had theirs. No matter what. And it was that belief in each other and our relationships that drove us as we grew the company our way. We knew we wanted to invite folks onto our staff who shared our values, because it was important to us to align our purpose with our people and make meaning–every day. Work was, and is, hard and tedious, and sometimes painful and frustrating. And no matter how much we love what we do, it was clear to us that it was more meaningful, and that we had a greater impact, when we had love for each other, as well.
Our friendship, our love for each other, always served as the roots of our company. Or, put another way, we were rooted in our love for one another. What started as an approach to our business partnership evolved into an energy that so many Clockworkers have brought and continue to bring to work every single day. I have heard Clockwork alums talk about their time here as their glory days. So many Clockworkers have made friends here that grow to be more like family. They move into the rest of their lives with real, life-long relationships that started at Clockwork. And I'm proud of that.
I have love for the people I work with. They have love for each other. This is rare, priceless, and beautiful–and sometimes hard to articulate to others, because work is not where we are encouraged to build relationships rooted in love. And yet, it's where we spend the majority of our time. It shapes our identities and contributes to our self-worth. It's a place where we are surrounded by other humans who share a purpose. It makes sense that work could be a place where love grows. But a long time ago, someone somewhere decided that emotions had no place at work. Or do they?
Several years ago I was invited to a radio show covering a conference I was keynoting. The host was interviewing me and Sigal Barsade, a Wharton School professor. The conversation was easy and interesting and I remember being enthralled by what Professor Barsade was talking about, and the focus of her research: emotions at work. Afterward, we connected by phone, and I was able to have a deeper discussion with her. From that moment on I was a follower and admirer.
What struck me was Professor Barsade's concept of 'companionate love.' She defines companionate love as "feelings of affection, compassion, caring, and tenderness for others–at work." And she's conducted lengthy studies about the benefits of bringing this kind of loving energy to work. It turns out that love at work contributes to employee enjoyment, engagement, satisfaction, and retention. But more than that, she found connections between companionate love at work and client/customer outcomes. It probably goes without saying that I was excited to tap into her thinking because I have such a fascination with what it takes to build healthy cultures, specifically in the workplace. I believe people often feel like culture is not something they can directly contribute to or shape. Yet, I’ve witnessed the power that individuals have in significantly influencing the health of an organization’s culture. And she helped me narrow in on why: we can all demonstrate affection, compassion, caring, and tenderness for others regardless of position.
Last month I was giving a talk and I did what I do: shared this idea of companionate love and talked through the importance of making space for people to have genuine affection for one another. Afterward, I thought it might be a good idea to follow up with the professor to find out where her energy was focused these days. That's when I discovered that she had passed away just a few months earlier from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
I was stunned, as so many of us are when we discover news like that so far after it happens. For years, I've preached the good word of Sigal Barsade. Beyond the work on companionate love, she's also basically proven that emotions are contagious at work. And to channel our energy most effectively and for the best impact, we must be cognizant of the power of our emotions, especially now as we all feel more fatigued and exasperated with the world.
So I’d like to channel some of Sigal’s positive energy: Don’t be afraid to let your feelings show up in your work. Make space for your values and purpose to shine through and to connect deeply with others. We need it right now. We really do. Also: #FuckCancer.
As you’ve probably seen on social media or in your own city, June is gay pride month. Yet, what we now call “Pride” began as a fight for freedom and rights with the Stonewall Riot on June 28th, 1969. As Michael Fader, who was there, recounted in Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution,
“It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren't going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it's like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that's what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we're going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren't going to go away. And we didn’t.”
This history is important to remember and to connect to our present-day celebrations because there are still many freedoms LGBTQIA+ don’t have right now. Recently we learned that we’ll be targeted anew as the SCOTUS revisits our right to marriage and intimate relationships. The leaders of this country spend a great deal of time debating who matters and who doesn’t. I live for the day when it’s all of us.
Learn some Stonewall history
While we might be fighting for different things, our existence and voices are still threatened, marginalized, and silenced. Yet, there is always a reason to celebrate each other, our community, and to fly our flag. Or even better, fly this flag, a modified version of the original with additional black, brown, light blue, pink, and white stripes to bring the communities represented by those colors to the forefront: marginalized people of color, trans people, and those living with HIV/AIDS and those who have been lost.
There was a lot I wanted to write about this month. But I need more time to consider how to frame it up and share it with you. Until then, enjoy this video!
Note: Contains strong language and flashing images