Special Guest PostBy Deb Mills-Scofield

The lack of civil­i­ty, the enti­tle­ment and cod­dling in the work­place today is astound­ing; and it’s not Mil­len­ni­als: it’s old­er Gen-Ys and Baby Boomers. My adage is “When did the Gold­en Rule become the excep­tion?” because it sure seems like it is. That’s why I think we need love in the workplace.

Bear with me: what we need is not love in the roman­tic sense, but love in the 2,500-year-old+ Aris­totelian Greek Clas­sic Virtue sense:

  • Eros: pas­sion, desire, devo­tion. Think of Zap­pos and Nordstrom’s view of cus­tomer ser­vice or Apple’s focus on design
  • Phi­los: friend­ship, respect. Think of teams, col­lab­o­ra­tion, earning/keeping trust and talent
  • Agape: sac­ri­fice, empa­thy, humil­i­ty. Think of putting your­self in some­one else’s shoes — your cus­tomer, employ­ee, and supplier

Deb Mills-ScofieldSo you’re ask­ing how can I lam­baste an indul­gent envi­ron­ment while espous­ing the need for more love?

Let’s look at three key play­ers in your ecosys­tem: cus­tomers, employ­ees and suppliers.

As Steve Den­ning says, first and fore­most, it’s all about delight­ing your customer.


Do you real­ly think about your cus­tomers, their needs, issues, prob­lems — from their point of view or from yours trans­posed on them? There were two com­pa­nies in Colom­bia using text mes­sag­ing for recruit­ment (text mes­sag­ing is wide­ly avail­able, the Inter­net is not). The first one sim­ply texted the job seek­er a loca­tion and time, noth­ing about the employ­er, job details and so on. They weren’t very suc­cess­ful because most of the job seek­ers had to choose between pay­ing for the bus to get to the inter­view or eat­ing a meal (all for a job they knew noth­ing about in a poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous part of the city). The sec­ond com­pa­ny looked at the forces imped­ing peo­ple from get­ting jobs — such as access to and cost of trans­porta­tion, infor­ma­tion about the job, and so on. This com­pa­ny addressed those issues, and it is growing.

When was the last time you tried to dis­cov­er, order, track the order, receive, unpack, get rid of the pack­ag­ing, use/install, call cus­tomer ser­vice and dis­pose of what your com­pa­ny makes? How easy was it? Would you “hire” your com­pa­ny again based on your expe­ri­ence? Do you real­ly under­stand all the forces impact­ing your cus­tomers — time, mon­ey, effort, con­ve­nience and so on — and how you can make those eas­i­er for them? Think about the buy­ing expe­ri­ences you’ve loved. What is it that makes it so delight­ful? What are you pas­sion­ate about doing for your cus­tomers? Where can Eros and Agape apply?


We all know hap­py, engaged employ­ees are more pro­duc­tive and there­fore more able to delight your cus­tomers. Stud­ies have shown this time and again, yet few com­pa­nies real­ly make this a strate­gic pri­or­i­ty. The com­mand-and-con­trol days are over. Pro­vide your employ­ees with the free­dom to make their own choic­es, includ­ing those that affect your cus­tomers. If you can’t trust them with that, you’ve got big­ger prob­lems. This may sound para­dox­i­cal with my ini­tial com­ments on enti­tle­ment and cod­dling, but it’s not. Giv­ing your peo­ple a healthy work­ing envi­ron­ment, phys­i­cal­ly and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly (which means account­abil­i­ty), brings out the best in them. Cod­dling and tol­er­at­ing inap­pro­pri­ate per­for­mance and behav­iour under­mines everyone.

When you walk the halls or fac­to­ries of your organ­i­sa­tion (which I hope you do), what do you see and hear? Smiles? Laugh­ter? Peo­ple help­ing each oth­er? Or not? Would you want to work for your com­pa­ny in any of the oth­er posi­tions and lev­els? Would you want to work for you? Would you want to be treat­ed the way you treat your peo­ple? How do you, will you, excite and engage your peo­ple? How can you encour­age their Eros and Agape for cus­tomers and Phi­los for each other?


I can’t count how many times my clients com­plain about how their cus­tomers treat them. Issues are plen­ti­ful around pay­ments, changes to orders, deliv­ery dates, mis­aligned expec­ta­tions, and so on. Many of these same peo­ple then turn around and treat their sup­pli­ers the way their cus­tomers treat them. So much for the Gold­en Rule. Sim­i­lar­ly to how you treat your peo­ple, if you treat your sup­pli­ers with respect and hon­esty, odds are you will have a good work­ing rela­tion­ship in which you can align both sets of inter­ests and both grow. One of my clients dis­cov­ered new appli­ca­tions for one of their key sup­pli­ers, sig­nif­i­cant­ly grow­ing both their busi­ness­es and open­ing up brand new mar­ket spaces.

Have you ever sat down with your sup­pli­ers and under­stood their busi­ness issues and how you could help them help you? Would you want to be a sup­pli­er to your com­pa­ny? Do your peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate in a help­ful way with your sup­pli­ers? Are there ways you can help your sup­pli­ers get into new mar­kets and grow their busi­ness? What are your sup­pli­ers pas­sion­ate about? Where can you help them sup­ply to you with the Phi­los and Agape you’d like your cus­tomers to show you?

Love is crit­i­cal in today’s work­place; but it doesn’t mean tol­er­at­ing any type of per­for­mance or behav­iour, and it doesn’t mean ignor­ing seri­ous issues. It does mean under­stand­ing your cus­tomers’ needs even bet­ter than they do, from their world, tap­ping into your people’s pas­sions for delight­ing cus­tomers, let­ting teams make their own deci­sions and encour­ag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion and mak­ing your sup­pli­ers part of your ecosys­tem instead of inden­tured servants.

What will you try this week to show love at work?

Deb Mills-Scofield (@dscofield), based in Cleve­land, Ohio, is a con­sul­tant focussed on help­ing organ­i­sa­tions estab­lish a path for growth that cre­ates action­able, adapt­able, mea­sur­able and prof­itable inno­va­tion-based strate­gic plans. She men­tors entre­pre­neurs in NE Ohio and at Brown University’s Entre­pre­neur­ship Pro­gram, Brown’s Women’s Launch Pad Pro­gram and Brown Stu­dents’ star­tups. She is also on the Advi­so­ry Coun­cil for the School of Engi­neer­ing at Brown. She teach­es Busi­ness Mod­el Inno­va­tion at Ober­lin Col­lege and men­tors stu­dents apply­ing for Oberlin’s Entre­pre­neur­ship Fel­low­ship. Find out more about Deb at her website.

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