What Could Be Better than Greed?


In the movie Wall Street, the lead character, Gordon Gekko, famously said, "Greed is good." That seems to be the gospel truth for many people.

I wonder what he thought about the recent national championship football game between Clemson and Alabama. I didn't watch the game but I heard some of the post-game interview with Dabo Sweeny, the coach of the Clemson Tigers. Overwhelmed with emotion after an odds-beating victory over Alabama, Coach Swinney said he told his players that "love would win the game" on that Monday night, meaning the love that his players had for each other.

It was a moving testimony of his love for the young men he coached as well as obvious pride in their victory but I was curious. Did they really win because of love? Not everyone thought so. I read an editorial by an Oklahoma sports writer that pretty well dismissed the idea out of hand. Had I kept looking I imagine I would have found many such cynical opinions questioning the impact of love on the gridiron. But still, something about it seems compelling. I'm speculating here but one of the outcomes of people who love others is a lack of selfishness. I'm no expert on football but I have a hunch that a lack of selfishness on the field could be the winning edge between two equally talented teams.

What about other competitive arenas? Researchers Sigal Barsade and Olivia O'Neil report that "Love is a not word you often hear uttered in office hallways or conference rooms. And yet, it has a strong influence on workplace outcomes. The more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they are." Of course, the kind of love they are talking about here is compassionate love between friends and colleagues. They go on to say, "It may not be surprising that those who perceive greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, but few managers focus on building an emotional culture. That's a mistake."

They found that employees who felt they worked in a caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork. They showed up to work more often, were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

Could the real bottom line be deeper than any P&L statement? Could an investment in building a culture of compassionate caring relationships have a collateral benefit on profitability? Greed is certainly powerful . . . . but maybe not as powerful as love.


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