Love and Logic® for the Working World

Logo by  Love and Logic

If you ask most people over the age of 30 what Love and Logic® is, they’ll most likely be able to tell you it’s a parenting model that emphasizes natural consequences. Developed in the 1970s by former school principal, Jim Fay, and  psychiatrist, Dr. Foster Cline, Love and Logic® has a tagline that speaks to its popularity and success --  “Helping raise responsible kids since 1970.”  The beauty of the philosophy is twofold:  The Love and Logic® method reduces emotional reactivity and encourages parents to enlist children in solving more of their own problems.


The theory is that we learn more from the consequences we experience than the consequences we are saved because someone rescued us from them. Example: A child who is forced to eat a school lunch he doesn’t like, or miss lunch, is less likely to forget his lunchbox at home than a student whose parent always brings the forgotten lunch box to school. 


As important, when parents exert emotional control, minimizing emotional reactions like reprimanding and yelling at kids, the result is strengthened parent-child relationships and positive modeling for conflict resolution. Both good skills to develop.


After five years of facilitating Love and Logic® courses, and nearly twenty years in the working world, I feel qualified to say that not only is Love and Logic® an effective formula for parenting, it’s a good formula for life. Including life in the business world. Let me explain…


Natural Consequences

One of the key principles of Love and Logic® is that except in emergency situations, the consequences do the teaching. This principle could play out in the business world by allowing a team member to fail, rather than carrying that person. If a big presentation is to be made to a client, maybe a rehearsal of the presentation is scheduled in time to test the effectiveness or completeness of each team member’s role. Once it’s clear someone isn’t prepared, their role is split between the remaining team members and the presentation goes on without them – a fact which will be reflected in a review or when it’s time for raises/bonuses to be considered. Rather than being delivered in a punitive manner, the consequence is delivered in a matter-of-fact manner, with an emphasis on the fact that the team member didn’t deliver, and unfortunately will not be benefitting from the fruits of that labor. The cause-effect relationship delivers the lesson; the supervisor doesn’t have to.


Photo by  Jon Tyson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The Qualified Yes

Another tenet of the Love and Logic® method is that of qualifying the yes. While it’s a goal to say “yes” as often as possible, and not to withhold permission as a matter of principle, Love and Logic® believes that it’s perfectly okay – and even preferable – to use as leverage any task that needs to be complete. For example, if a team member requests a week off at a historically busy time, rather than provide an immediate yes or no, the yes can be qualified: “If the end-of-quarter report I need from you is completed by then, sure, you can have that week off.”  This puts the answer squarely in the hands of the staff member. He can decide and determine whether or not the report is completed. And if it’s not, he has no one to blame but his own lack of planning or time management.


Even in the peer-to-peer scenario, the qualified yes is a tool that can be effectively implemented to simply state needs before agreeing to a task. Example: Graphic designer is asked to create an advertisement by the next day, but no specs, images, or copy are provided.  Rather than agreeing to design the ad with a blanket “Sure! No problem,” she can reply with “I can begin working on this ad as soon as I have the specs, copy, and digital assets.” It’s clear that she isn’t beginning to work on the assignment until more details are filled in. She’s effectively passed the incomplete request back to the asker, while remaining professional, positive, and courteous.


Building Problem-Solving Skills

The model is almost akin to the Socratic method in that it encourages leaders to focus on asking questions of their teams and each other and getting them to think about how to solve their own problems, as opposed to feeding them all the answers or directing how a problem with be solved. Not only does this help develop a more competent and capable team, it trains future leaders, who are effective problem-solvers.


A side-benefit of Love and Logic® in the workplace is that it helps us keep a tighter hold on emotions, especially in tense situations. Leaders (or parents) are strongly encouraged to rein in hot-blooded tempers, preserving working relationships. It also encourages leaders to lean into demonstrating appreciation verbally with acknowledgement of what’s working, rather than merely material rewards like bonuses or raises (which are also appreciated, but research shows are not perceived to be as absent as occasional acknowledgement or public praise).


Empathy + Question = the Love and Logic

Photo by  Nick Fewings  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Whether you work with a team of early-career millennials or a group of seasoned professionals, problem-solving is a skill that can be honed. Simply expressing a decent dose of genuine empathy  -- “Ugh. That’s a bummer”  -- followed by a question, “What do you plan to do about it?” Or “Any suggestions for how to solve this issue?” can go a long way toward facilitating a productive discussion and encouraging ownership of challenges.


Emphasizing the Positive

Even with disgruntled or difficult customers,  stating what you can or will do, rather than what you can’t or won’t, is an effective strategy that accentuates the positive. It also effectively relieves you of the burden of producing unrealistic outcomes.  I experienced this recently with a Groupon I’d let expire. While the merchant didn’t honor the Groupon deal of 30% off the service (car wash detailing, for those who are curious), he said he’d be happy to provide me credit in the amount I’d spent with his business. I agreed that this was an acceptable compromise because I didn’t lose any money; I just lost out on the deal because I was too late to redeem the Groupon. He emphasized the positive with “I can give you the $50 you spent on the offer as credit toward a detailing” – and he said it with the enthusiasm as if he were announcing that this was my lucky day. While I didn’t leave with the deal I’d hoped for, I left satisfied. He didn’t lose a customer.


In non-retail situations this can also be done, of course. The boss wants a report by the end of the day and you’re swamped?  The response could be “I can stay late tonight if you’d like, or I can have it to you by noon tomorrow.” This provides context for the request while also stating the positive – an alternative, (nearly) equally speedy turn-around.


Wrapping it up

Whether the goal is developing leaders among your staff, fostering cooperative and positive working relationships, encouraging project ownership, managing a potentially damaging outcome, or handling low-performing team members effectively without building resentment, the tenets of Love and Logic® apply to the workplace as easily as they do to the realm of parenting. And often with the same truly transformative results.


So, give the Love and Logic® (at work) method a try. You might find that the iconic parenting philosophy that’s been “helping raise responsible kids since 1970” can also help you produce collaborative, productive, and effective teams in the workplace.  😊