The quest for the Lovework

Lovework coverA couple of days ago, I came across a book entitled “En busca del Lovework” written by two brothers Joan and David Elías. As it happens with many things I read, I would like to express my opinions about it and share them with everyone.

As a first impression, I have to say that it’s a short and easy reading that exposes a subject that is of utmost importance for companies in the current knowledge era. In spite of that, I think that the concept of “Lovework” is not being clearly defined and, in my opinion, that can confine the book to the sad category of “enterprise self-help” for those managers who need to have the worng freeling that: “there’s nothing you can do to motivate your employees, because they need to come motivated to work”, what basically means that it’s “not their problem”.

I think that is not the idea that the book tries to transmit, and I would like to extend the concept some more with my opinions.

A couple of months ago I read an interesting and very well written post from Kathy Sierra that is related to the idea: “Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company!“. Kathy’s post is based on management theory Y, which Douglas McGregor exposed around 1960 (and that today most of managers still don’t understand). Such theory proposes that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation in and of itself, and that managers have to try to remove the barriers that prevent workers from fully actualizing themselvesy (in “Lovework” terms, not to demotivate them).

In my work experience, all the people that I’ve met that were really happy with their jobs had something in common: (to a good extent) they had the possibility of doing what they really loved.

I found that the Hollywood business model that Kathy describes in her post a very good way to describe the concept of “Lovework”. In that model we have the professionals/craftspeople, which are the employees who feel passion for what they do and who want to do it well (and who provide a differentiating value for the company) and on the other hand there are “producers” which are the managers whose mission is to make everything work in a coordinated way and to support the “craftspeople”.

Unfortunately, the majority of the companies are not prepared to work that way. It is easier to find cases of Lovework within startups or certain companies (or certain areas within companies) like Google or Apple.

I found a list of 8 steps needed to create a Lovework environment that was compiled by the Harvard Business School. Below you can see a short summary:

  1. Instill an inspiring purpose: Everybody feels inspired when we know that the results from our work will transcend ourselves.
  2. Provide recognition: Recognition for a well done job is one of the basic needs for human beings. Even though it is the responsibility of the employee to do a good job, it is also important to provide that recognition (having in mind that recognition does not replaces monetary rewards!!)
  3. Be an expediter for your employees: Facilitate your employees to get their job done is a way to build trust and to contribute to value generation.
  4. Coach your employees for improvement: Provide feedback about what is being done as expected and what should be improved.
  5. Communicate fully: The classical approach of distributing information on the basis of “need to know” is a demotivating factor. On the contrary, communicating openly we can get our employees provide more value and also feel respected.
  6. Face up to poor performance: There will always be around a 5% of people who don’t want to work, are unmotivated who demotivate others. With these “X” employees (according to McGregor’s management theory) a disciplinary approach —including dismissal— is about the only way they can be managed.
  7. Promote teamwork: Teamworking is more complex and requires more time… but it definitely pays off. The quality of a group’s efforts in areas such as problem solving is usually superior to that of individuals working on their own. In addition, most workers get a motivation boost from working in teams.
  8. Listen and involve: Participative management style allows companies to reap enormous rewards in efficiency and work quality. Employees are a rich source of information about how to do a job and how to do it better. In order to get ideas from them, it is not enough to wait for those suggestions to materialize through formal upward communication or suggestion programs. Managers need to find opportunities to have direct conversations with individuals and groups about what can be done to improve effectiveness.

The value that companies provide to their customers depends on people, increasingly every day. Added to this fact, nowadays it is turning harder for companies to find the best people, and it will be even harder in the future for those companies that aren’t able to create a “Lovework” environment.


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