the circle of Luv

Pebbles, compliments of james_ michael_hill via Flickr

“…I am my relationships – my relationships to the subselves within my own self and my relationships to others, my living relationships to my own past through quantum memory and to my future through my possibilities.  Without relationship I am nothing” [Zohar & Marshall, 1990, p. 145].

 How often do individuals at work feel ignored by their colleagues (or in the worst case scenario, attacked), rather than encouraged and supported? Southwest Airlines is an exemplar in the area of employee relations. Its goal is to create a culture in which associates feel free to express their support for one another – and, to create a circle of affirmation which they affectionately call “Luv.” Kelleher (former CEO of Southwest) explained his commitment to cultivating civility at work:  “We are interested in people who externalize, who focus on other people, who are really motivated to help other people…we are not interested in navel gazers, regardless of how lint-free their navals are” (Freiberg & Freiberg, 1996, p. 216). 

Luv is something that Southwest employees practice on a regular basis.  The following credos describe expected S.W. employee behaviors:

 “[Love is kind and generous].  Love finds one of its greatest expressions in kindness and generosity.  People who are kind are charitable, considerate, and humane.  They go out of their way to assist others.

 [Love is affirming] Love believes in people.  It chooses to look for the goodness in others.”

Similarly, at Tom’s of Maine:  “Members of a happy, thriving family will do anything for each other; they devote themselves to maintaining that happiness and increasing it.”  Chappell (1993) uses the metaphor of the circle to describe the mutual appreciation that occurs when people feel loved.  The loving web of connection is comprised of the following three components:

  •  Goodwill – the desire to reach mutuality through understanding another’s needs;
  •  Benevolence – love and concern extended at the expense of self, and
  •  Civility, or the willingness to behave in a way that is real and not superficial (Depree, 1989). 

An atmosphere of loving acceptance destroys the façade of corporate imposter.  In the child’s story “The Velveteen Rabbit,” the toy became real through the act of being loved – at the point when its shiny veneer and trappings of outward appearance were eroded.  The degree to which managers encourage façade, false consciousness, and false consensus (Morrison & Milliken, 2000) is the degree to which their company is asphyxiating.  Love brings forth what Wheatley (1999) terms the “living” or adaptable organization.  Its growth results from the multiplicative force of members who actively seek to promote goodwill within the firm.

I was recently the recipient of such an act of goodwill. Dr. Jeff Cornwall, in his blog “The Entrepreneurial Mind” graciously introduced Organized for Efficiency to the blogoshere.  Last summer I called Dr. Cornwall (out of the blue) when I was first conceptualizing my blog. Despite the fact that we had never met, he volunteered his time, tips, and advice regarding blogging success. To this day he continues to extend a hand to help individuals (like myself) who are just getting started, and who can benefit from his many years of experience. In my opinion, he exemplifies collegial interaction and a dedication to serve.

Dewitt Jones explains that there is a difference between being the best in the world, as opposed to being the best for the world.  If we were at all interested in being the best for the world, I think that the abuses common at many companies would cease to occur. 



Chappell, T.  (1993). The soul of a business:  Managing for profit and the common good. (p. 117).  New York, NY:  Bantam Books. 

DePree, M.  (1989).  Leadership is an art.  New York, NY:  Bantam Dell.

Dewitt, J.  (Narrator).  Celebrate what’s right with the world [Film].  (Available from Star Thrower Distribution, 26 East Exchange Street, Suite 600, St. Paul, MN  55101).

Freiberg, K., & Freiberg, J.  (1996). Nuts!  Southwest Airlines’ crazy recipe for business and personal success.  Austin, TX:  Bard Press

Morrison, E. W., & Milliken, F. J.  (2000).  Organizational silence:  A barrier to change and development in a pluralistic world.  The Academy of Management Review, 25, 706-725. 

Wheatley, M. J.  (1999).  Leadership and the new science:  Discovering order in a chaotic world (p. 18).  San Francisco, CA:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Zohar, D., & Marshall, I. N.  (1990). The quantum self:  Human nature and consciousness defined by the new physics (p. 145).  New York, NY:  William Morrow and Company, Inc.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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