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Love Plus One: Relational Authenticity Produces Positive Results

In The Return of the King, there is a scene at the top of the Orthanc where Saruman affirms the loyalty of Grima Wormtongue to Gandalf far below. Saruman is dismissive of Grima, who is standing there and could speak for himself, and implies that there is nothing that could change the mind of the lowly servant. King Theoden offers to Grima what Saruman cannot – love through forgiveness and in recalling what it means to be part of a community. Theoden reminds Grima that he was once a man of Rohan and can be one again. What Saruman fails to see is that wanting to be treated with love and forgiveness can drive someone who has been without it to extremes. In this case, and aptly done, it leads to Saruman being stabbed by Grima Wormtongue.

Active, authentic love is tough to come by. For many, love is tethered to condition. Literature and history are replete with these accounts. When we work with people who’ve been conditioned in this manner, which is most, someone must break the chain. The systemic nature of conditional love in relationship is generational. Those deposits run deep which is why our action against that breeding needs to be intentional and consistent.

In our workplaces, we see this in the most simplistic of situations. Teams trying to work together can quickly dissolve into factions around whose ideas are better and who has the political clout to get things done. Conditions are placed upon acceptance and engagement. Relationships can be more about popularity rather than people. And as we all know, popularity wanes. It’s something that has to be kept up with regularly and is built on conditions. The negative impact to innovation, high performance and retention is real and affects the cultural construct for an organization.

Our job includes smashing these paradigms. Opening the door for true inclusion is not found in pandering. If every voice has value, then how does your organization show that? Of course, not everyone’s ideas can be put into place, nor should they. However, if the win is found in those who have mastered the conditional relationship merry-go-round, then we’ve encouraged shallow, tempered people development. And is something that will not work.

You are the one to intervene and work to establish honest, fruitful treatment of persons regardless of “winning” contributions. You are the “plus one” to each person’s daily event of work. Be a great date, so to speak. Be attentive, fun and intentional. Go and lift others up.

Yes, it’s tiring. And often, you may be left out in the cold while trying to change the mechanic of conditional love and engagement. Stay the course. Value will be found in the long-term when we can look back on activated change in how people affirm and treat one another. It feels idealistic only because we’ve made it so. We have allowed too much time to elapse without correcting this broken system. That does not make what it ought to be a fairy tale, but rather, a lost art. It’s time to practice it once again.



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