This is the second blog of the seven-blog series, Creating a workplace where people thrive: The power of organizational core values.

How do companies create a thriving workforce? It all boils down to one thing: core values. In this post, we’ll explore how leading from the heart creates a happier and more productive workforce.

Magnolia Value statement: We lead with our hearts and create harmonious relationships that honor unique perspectives and harness our collective strengths.

The thought of being a “heart-centered” organization might make some people uncomfortable. That’s understandable. The phrase “heart-centered” tends to conjure images of awkward group hugs, sappy affirmations, and celebrations for every occasion. All that warm-fuzzy stuff that takes up time and seemingly doesn’t contribute to productivity, innovation, or effectiveness. And yet, herein lies the misconception about what it means to be a heart-centered organization and why this value is so powerful.

At Magnolia Consulting, being heart-centered is who we are—not because we thrive on group hugs (we are virtual, after all)—but because we understand what it means to lead and work from the heart as well as the mind. Like most organizations, we engage in outward-facing displays of kindness, such as offering pro bono work to nonprofit organizations, celebrating work anniversaries, and sharing “tokens of appreciation” with our customers, clients, and partners. But that’s not why heart-centeredness rates as a core value for us. At Magnolia, our heart-centered approach informs every decision we make.

When we work and lead from the heart, we honor the unique strengths and qualities of each team member as well as ourselves. We respect our differing abilities, perspectives, and contributions. We celebrate each other’s breakthroughs and accomplishments, because we believe that when our colleagues succeed, we all succeed. We provide constructive and purposeful feedback to each other without demeaning, devaluing, or criticizing anyone’s contributions. We choose to believe we are all operating from our best intentions at any given time, and when we make mistakes or perform less than we would’ve liked, we see these moments as opportunities for growth rather than blame and degradation. We are mindful of how our words and actions impact others, and we pay attention to how our inner dialogue affects our sense of worth and value. We act with compassion—meaning we care about understanding another’s challenging experiences and want to help ameliorate them.

These behaviors might seem like no-brainers, but they aren’t always common or consistently practiced in organizations. Yet, they are essential to harmonious organizational cultures. When team members feel valued, recognized, appreciated, and heard—core values we all have—they stay longer, produce more, and work to improve the company’s bottom line.

Heart-centered practices aren’t all warm and fuzzy. They require self-reflection, awareness, and courage. And why is that? Why can’t we just stick with outward-facing acts of kindness? The answer is simple: Heart-centeredness begins in the hearts of individuals before it becomes an outward expression. When we are heart-centered, we recognize that our ego is often the biggest driver of how we show up in relationship to our colleagues.

The ego is how we see ourselves and our self-importance. It is the part of us that worries about how we measure up to others. The ego thrives on fear and constantly looks for threats that might tear it down. When we lead from the ego and perceive our interactions and circumstances from a place of fear—rather than heart—we invite judgment, envy, blame, shame, resentment, and anger into our organizations.

Fear-based organizations constrict us.

Heart-centered organizations expand us.

It’s natural (and completely okay) to feel fear, but we don’t want fear to rule us. To choose something different, we must recognize when fear is behind our words and actions, so we can consciously shift away from the ego and toward the heart. Heart-centeredness is a core value for Magnolia because it reminds us that we have a choice in how we show up for ourselves and in our relationships with others.

Being heart-centered matters all the time, but we believe it’s essential during times of conflict. And let’s face it, all organizations experience conflict. Consider what happens when we face a tight deadline or competing deadlines. Panic is one of the most common responses. Panic increases stress, reduces sleep, and stifles productivity. It’s hard to produce excellent work under these circumstances.

At Magnolia, when deadlines seem impossible, we name our fears. When it comes to deadlines, a common fear is not having enough time to produce the quality of work our client expect and our reputation depends on. Then there’s the byproduct of that fear: anticipating the necessary personal sacrifices (late nights and weekends) and professional adjustments (moving meetings, delaying other projects) required to meet the deadline. After identifying our fears, we name the unmet needs lurking behind them. Stress, in a nutshell, is how we react when our needs are not met. In this example, the obvious unmet need is the ability to work under conditions that allow us to deliver our best while also being present for our families. A second need is for others to respect our time and honor all of our professional commitments.

Once we understand our needs, we identify how to meet them. We acknowledge that while we might not be able to control our deadlines, we can control how we respond to the situation they create for us. We can resist and resent our circumstances by thinking things like, “I’ll never be able to do this,” or “I can’t believe I’m expected to work like this.” Or, we can choose a heart-centered narrative by saying, “I was presented with an ambitious timeframe, and I’m doing the best I can in this moment to meet it. Things always find a way of working out.” As we change our attitude, we can also reflect on future choices that can be made to ensure this experience isn’t repeated. This simple, yet powerful, shift in our thinking can transform how we feel about our work. When we take ownership of our narrative and honoring our own needs, we feel happier and work more productively.

As you can see, being heart-centered is about way more than warm fuzzy stuff. Heart-centeredness calls on us to be mindful of how we show up for ourselves, our colleagues, and in situations. It requires us to self-reflect, bring awareness to our inner thoughts, and recognize we can change our narrative from fear-based to heart-centered thinking. It’s about being responsive rather than reactive, which means leading from the heart and not the ego. Leading from the heart creates organizations that thrive because they aren’t constricted by fear.

Can you recognize when fear-based thinking is taking over at work?

Just for today, how can you shift a fear-based thought to a heart-centered one?

If you’re an employer what are you doing to create a harmonious culture?

Are there additional ways you can lead with an open heart?