Posts tagged “Love

Lessons from Francis

pope francis

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece titled “Explaining Trump.” It was my struggle to understand the success behind Trump’s political communications. With the end of his first visit to the United States, I thought it would be a refreshing alternative to consider communications  lessons from Pope Francis.  Surely if we can learn from “the Donald” then there must be lessons we can learn from “the Holy Father.”

I was able to follow Francis’ visit closely. I was on the south lawn of the White House when Francis was received by President Obama.  I watched his parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.  I watched his appearances before Congress, at the United Nations, at Madison Square Garden.


We can learn a lot of things from Pope Francis. I’ll mention three.


Speak clearly.  Francis was right about his English pronunciation.  It isn’t very good. Awful, really. But that didn’t hide a clarity of purpose.  Francis speaks plainly. His concepts are simple. The primacy of love. The beauty of life. The dignity of humanity. We should help those who need help. We should protect the vulnerable. We should empower the honorable. We should care for each other. And he speaks not just with words but also with deeds. Sleep in a simple room. Ride in a Fiat. Wear comfortable shoes.


We can all learn from this. Business, like life, is difficult. But it isn’t all that complicated. Amidst obfuscation all around us, clarity is refreshing.  Clarity energizes while it soothes. When we speak clearly and simply, people take notice.  They smile. Even more so when your clarity is not just in what you say, but how you live out each day.


Observe intently. Francis is observant. He engages with purposefulness. He sees the small immigrant girl being shuffled away in a parade and calls out to her. He looks into the eyes of a homeless person and then washes his feet. He laughs and jokes with the school children. He reaches out and playfully tousles a young person’s hair. When before a joint session of Congress, Francis said he was not there to “preach”, he was not there to “address,” he was there to “dialogue.” (Which is a very ambitious thing to do with this U.S. Congress!)


We fail to communicate when we fail to observe.  When we are self-absorbed, self-obsessed and otherwise self-occupied we fail to see, understand, and connect with those around us. We all would benefit from less communicating and more dialoguing.


Love recklessly. Finally, Francis is a reminder of the power of passion and love. I find it impossible to separate what Francis says and who Francis is from his passion, enthusiasm and devotion. There is a winsomeness to his heartfelt affection and concern for the “others”. And not just some “others.” All “others.” Francis is the antithesis of targeted communications. When you see him and listen to him you get the sense that no one – regardless of station – is beyond his reach.


We live in a world suffocating from exclusivity. We micro-target ourselves to the point of isolation. By defining our identity so precisely, we lose sense of who we really are.  By appealing to a targeted few, we appeal to no one in general.  We would all do better by rethinking our disdain for the “lowest common denominator.”  Perhaps the lowest common denominator is, in fact, our highest calling.


So there it is.  The next strategic communications plan for the next client.  Speak clearly. Observe intently. Love recklessly. It seems to be working for Francis.

Valentine’s Day: What is love? Part I

What is love and what does love have to do with brands, organizations and business?

Good question. I don’t know for sure but that’s never stopped me before.  Plus the Sunday lesson this morning was love and we’re closing in on Valentine’s Day.  I got inspired.

At the risk of violating rules for both civil and faith-based discussion in post-modern society I thought I’d try and answer the question by combining Christian scripture, secular business principles and a bit of humor.  And to make the risk greater, I’ll use one half of perhaps the best known verse of scripture , John 3:16.  For those averse to matters of faith and religion, don’t worry.   No moralizing.  I just hope you’ll still find something here that you agree with and find mildly insightful.

With that, here’s part one of three.

John 3:16 starts: “For God so loved the world …”.

Such a simple statement.  God loved the world.  Actually, John wrote “so” loved the world which I’ll interpret to mean that He loved it a lot.  What does that tell us about nature of love?

For me, it is this:  Love is a decision.

Love is not something that happens to you. Love is something that you make happen to yourself and others. It is not an emotion, feeling or phase in your life for relation.  It is a decision you make. I think what John is saying is that God “decided” to love the world.  Some may challenge that and say, “Hey, Jerry, the world’s a pretty awesome place!  God just fell in love with it!”  Maybe it went something like this:

“Oh!  Look at that pretty little blue place that I made!  It is so cute and adorable.  Everything there is so beautiful and lovely.  It is my favorite vacation spot.  The people are so nice.”

I don’t think so.

Sure, we’ve got the Grand Canyon and all. And there are a lot of very wonderful people in the world. But peel back the layers of our planet earth – the world – and the place is pretty terrifying.

Animal world? Check out a NatGeo video of some tiger methodically stalking, catching and bloodily piece-by-piece tearing apart the flesh of a baby zebra while it writhes in pain. You can have all the Disney talk you want romanticizing the ‘circle of life’ stuff, but in the real world what you’re really talking about are animals savagely stalking and eating each other.   Nature = strong eat the weak.  Fascinating, yes.  Even beautiful?  Perhaps.  Something that you’d decide to love?  Not so much.

Then turn to the world of people.  Sure there are some nice people out there.  You and me, right?  But even we do some horrific things.  Here’s a test. Take two perfectly wonderful, pleasant, well-behaved and lovingly adorable three year olds. Put them together on the floor in a room.  Now set evenly between them a very cool toy to share. Stand back and watch.  Trust me. It is going to get ugly in a hurry.  Within five minutes, screams.  Within ten, grabbing, biting, and gouging.  Anyone who has had children will confirm this.   And as for adults and all our own private neurosis and objectionable behaviors? Let’s not go there. No, people can be pretty hard to love. Even the ones that on the outside seem nice.

And nature? Forget about it! For every beautiful sunset and mild ocean breeze there’s a Jakarta tsunami and Hatian earthquake. Nature may be a lot of things but three things it totally lacks are compassion, forgiveness, mercy. No, nature is about as far away from love as you can get.

No. I’m thinking that what John was writing about was a clear, concious decision by a God to love the world. However it was, love was a decision.  It was a choice.  It is not something that happened   It is something that was made to happen.

So what in the world does any of this have to do with brands and business?

Think of it this way.

Loving your employees or loving your customers does not just happen.  In business, love does not come naturally.  Sometimes employees and customers can be a handful (remember the story of the three-year-olds?).  If you’re going to really care about what you do and who you do it with – I mean REALLY care about them – it is going to be something that you’re going to have to decide to do.  If you wait for it to happen, it won’t.  Trust me.  This stuff isn’t like a scene from The Titanic. Real love, the love that matters and lasts and changes lives and is meaningful – that love is something you choose to create. It is a decision that an organization or brand makes a conscious effort to act upon.

Companies that are consistently voted as the best place to work have DECIDED to be the best place to work.  Companies that have the most ardent and loyal customers have DECIDED to show their customers respect, affection and support.  If an employee or customer says they LOVE this or that brand, organization or company … you can bet that long before they realized or said it, someone made a decision that this is what they wanted to have happen.

They made a decision that the relationship they were building was not just based on making the most money, getting the cheapest price, or being a matter of convenience.  It was going to be more than that.

Love doesn’t just happen.  Love is a choice.

Tomorrow:  love is a verb.