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This article was originally published by Brien Dunphy on LinkedIn.

Heading into Thanksgiving, probably like you as well, I am reflecting on what I am most thankful for. I enjoy a thriving business consulting practice with great clients, a wonderful family, and meaningful work--I am truly blessed, more than I could have ever imagined. Yet, if there were a contest for what I am most thankful for, my family would win hands down; but truth be told, that hasn’t always been so clear to me in the midst of the sea of professional pursuits I swim in. I was reminded of this recently while on the road visiting a client.

Hundreds of miles away, I caught up with my wife over the phone and she recalled a recent conversation I had with my children. In that particular conversation, I was taking the time to share and reinforce the values that she and I hold dear. Her reaction was, “I find you so attractive when you do that.“ (who doesn’t like to hear those words!)

I didn’t catch it at first, but the following morning as I packed and prepared to board my next flight, it hit me. I realized that in all of the roles in my life where I measure my value professionally, I failed to measure my value in the most important place in my life: personally …and what makes me most attractive there.

Basic human psychology illustrates that we gravitate towards, and thrive in, environments where we are most valued. At this stage in my career, I am recognizing I’m no different than the rest of humanity. :-)

Aware of that natural longing, we must be holistic in appraising where we bring value, and where we are valued. We can’t limit ourselves solely to investing in the places where we feel most externally valued. Diligence, character, and integrity will instinctively motivate us to keep investing in our professional selves and external reward; oftentimes at the expense of our personal lives and internal rewards.

But it begs the question and merits reflection: are we valued where we presently are? We live in an interesting time right now with “quiet quitting” as the current buzzword (which still exists even as the economy faces an impending recession). I find it equally interesting that the quiet quitting trend is coming on the heels of the previous trend which was “the great reset.”

The great reset was essentially the common professionals’ French revolution, where professionals took a stand and revolted against being underpaid and undervalued. Yet here we are in this world of quiet quitting. How does this happen?

As a business consultant, I see a few reasons for this. First is the fact that wherever we go and no matter how well we are paid, we can never escape our own humanity.

It is sad that in the modern workplace, the characteristics most people look for in a leader are competence and warmth. When we work in a place where our contributions are either devalued or unnoticed, lack of motivation (or at least the temptation to do the bare minimum) presents itself strongly.

The second thing I see is the desire for professionals to better themselves. Consummate professionals seek the next professional challenge. When there fails to be the opportunity to pursue the next horizon within their current position, the demotivation can be overwhelming. Who is responsible for that next challenge? Ideally, it is both the individual professional taking responsibility for their own growth and the company/manager taking responsibility for their employee’s growth.

Thirdly, and I would say most importantly, I think this all comes down to individual human beings not necessarily feeling valued but rather recognizing and acknowledging what they value in themselves and in their own lives.

With my background in counseling, I often reflect back on the vast numbers of men and women I’ve met, who remained entirely engaged and invested professionally, but “quiet quit” personally/relationally in their lives.

In my life, I want to go where I have the greatest value and impact; and go where the people around me find me most attractive. I don’t believe for a second that our professional and personal worlds need to be at war, but it occurs to me that to live our lives wisely requires us to put in the work to find the harmony between the two.

While professionalism and integrity should prevent us from quiet quitting on the job, our humanity and integrity should prevent us from quiet quitting personally. In investing consistently and passionately in our personal worlds, we create environments where we are most valued internally, not merely externally.

So this Thanksgiving, I am resolved to show my family how grateful I am for them. Because, at the end of the day, while I am valued professionally, I now know where I am most valued, indispensable, and “attractive.” I exhort you to do the same.

Have a Great Thanksgiving!

This article was originally published by Brien Dunphy on LinkedIn.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This often-quoted phrase has been extensively discussed by leadership experts since Peter Drucker uttered these words almost 20 years ago. Drucker was not discounting the importance of strategy. In fact, he was emphasizing the importance of culture - the personality of an organization, and demonstrating that while strategy is important, the culture is what will fuel or derail success.

A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, and values they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. The underlined phrases are mission critical for leaders to keep front of mind. Culture starts at the top, and defining the culture of your team is both your opportunity and responsibility as the leader of the team.

In a recent post, we discussed “The Great Reshuffle” and the opportunity to help your new team members assimilate and accelerate success. Every time there is a new person on your team or a person removed from the team, it becomes a new team. This is a natural opportunity to define the team’s culture, values, ways of working, and rules of engagement.

Your current team has a culture (one you likely may not have paid much attention to). Your new team WILL have a culture; and it will either be the same culture which has existed for years, both unexamined and unchallenged, or it will be the culture you intentionally decide that it should be. Use this opportunity to clear the land so you can build the building you want: a strong organizational culture.

Note: When creating and defining team cultures, leaders are best served in framing their ideals as “this is what we aspire to be” as opposed to “this is what we are.” This kind of articulation advances the optimistic ideal while acknowledging the reality of human imperfection. Such positioning allows for the inevitable (yet aspirational) missing of the mark, while maintaining the ultimate goal and destination for your team and organization.

Consider the following principles when you are defining the culture of your team:

Set Clear Expectations

Define & communicate what success looks like from a financial, relational, and communication aspect. The most frequent point of tension in the workplace is misalignment. Often, that misalignment is between a leader and their team. Set clear expectations and a clear method of feedback and coaching. Articulate expectations not only around tangible goals but also on norms and attitude. Be clear about roles and what success in those roles looks like.

Define Best Practices & Ways of Working

Create ground rules around respect (of time, thoughts, ideas), appreciation, and communication. Determine ways of working that fuel company objectives, align with goals and foster the culture you intend to create and then model those behaviors. These are the ways of working you believe will best help the overall team succeed. Codify what you believe optimal professional interactions look like. Model quality tone and depth of follow up and accountability. Establish what you believe is a healthy cadence for celebrating team success and acknowledging individual accomplishments.

Model Communication

Show your team transparency in communication by being intentionally transparent yourself. Knowing “why” matters. No one wants to be left in the dark, wondering what is being said behind closed doors. Enculturate a daily debriefing conversation where team members share observations, identify and problem-solve challenges. This will foster alignment and ensure you create an environment where transparency is a value and integral part of company culture. One leader I worked with was brave and courageous enough to hold a weekly meeting they called, “News and Rumors.” Nothing was off limits in this meeting. Supervisors addressed the unspoken fears and questions of the team members. As a result, the culture matured to where team members began to exercise the courage to hold one another accountable in that meeting as well (done civilly and authentically, this becomes an incredibly unifying practice).

Prioritize Relationships

Instill the value and importance of relationships in your team, emphasizing that relationships should be collaborative, not adversarial. Lead with integrity and care for the people in your trust. Celebrate success, however small. People like to feel validated and appreciated. Relationships in the workplace matter. Leaders serve both themselves and their teams by prioritizing, the building, and tending to relationships with those they lead. This can be as simple as following up on the personal interests or events they have shared; a hobby, activity, child’s sporting event, favorite author, etc. Not to be forgotten or excluded is demonstrating some personal investment in their professional growth (suggesting, or even paying for, additional learning/certification) or simply taking the time to learn what their professional “end game” is. These simple investments pay great dividends in relationships and culture.

The importance of company culture cannot be understated. It is always developing and evolving and defines the environment in which people work - a better culture leads to more engaged team members and is key to successful outcomes. The wrong organizational culture can lead to organizational demise. Culture provides the energy and creativity needed to build quality and dynamic infrastructure. Quality and dynamic infrastructure prepares you to adeptly field new and mounting complexities.

What culture are you creating in order to build the infrastructure needed to sustain new complexities?

This article was originally published by Brien Dunphy on LinkedIn.

Conflict is something healthy teams and healthy relationships engage in all the time. The issue isn’t whether you are engaging in conflict and disagreement (because you are); the issue is how you are doing it. In my coaching practice, I use these principles to ensure my clients successfully navigate such terrain at work. Here are five keys to successfully engaging in disagreement:

Determine What Success Looks Like

The first step in any disagreement is to determine what you are trying to accomplish. Conflicts and disagreements are often hastily initiated, without either party pausing long enough to consider their goal for the conversation. Make a conscious decision as to what your ultimate goal and your minimum goal is for the conversation before momentum and emotion carry you into the fray. Make the goal tangible and something you can clearly articulate. Choose to be forthright, organized, and solution-focused in pursuing your goal, resisting a defensive and self-protective posture. Recognize the short-sightedness of playing games with your words and intentions. Such choices will not produce growth for the team and certainly not for you professionally. To successfully engage in disagreement, you must first determine and articulate what success looks like.

Listen Deeply

Once you’ve conceived and determined what success looks like, focus on listening deeply to what the other person is saying. Our conversations, particularly in disagreement, are muddled with internal distractions and we overlook the need to listen deeply to the other person. We fail to find the thoughts behind the words. We fail to find the ethic, the ethos, the heart with which they are communicating. Instead, we are busy trying to establish our counterargument. We’re listening not with an ear to understand, but with an ear to win. The goal in a successful disagreement at work is not to win, but to create a better, more successful environment. Listen deeply to what their words are trying to communicate. What is their body language communicating? Does what I am seeing align with the words they are choosing? If not, why not? Benevolently, consider what may be behind the scenes causing that dissonance in them. Is there distraction or dissonance in me that is preventing me from listening and truly hearing? If something is distracting you, name it and eliminate it.

Check for Understanding, “What I Heard You Say Was…?”

You’ve determined what success looks like and have listened deeply to the other person. The third key to a successful disagreement is to check for comprehension. Ask for clarification. Do I really understand what was just said? Be able to repeat back to them what you heard. If you are seeing places of humanity, ask them about it, “I feel like I’m sensing a little bit of concern/doubt/frustration/apprehension/confusion/etc., am I sensing that correctly?” Whatever it is you are picking up on, ask for clarity. It’s in that verbal negotiation that you’re going to get a better understanding and ascertain what is being said. It is also in that place where you are going to establish a deeper, safer, and more reliable relationship.

Consider the Other Party May Be Right

The fourth key is incredibly important, and when tension is high, feels unnatural (because it is). Authentically look for the points in which the other person may be right, and where you might be off the mark. This is crucial because life is simply better when you live it as a learner. Approach disagreement, career, and every other area of life with an abiding desire to learn. Every interaction is an opportunity to develop and improve. I often exhort my clients to embrace a mindset that not only welcomes correction but even finds new energy from it. If we genuinely hold a growth perspective, when we meet correction, we have met improvement. It is precisely at that moment we know we have become a more informed and knowledgeable version of ourselves. Ask yourself what you can learn from this disagreement. Consider where the other person’s perspective is more correct than your own. When you embody the ethic of a humble learner, the relational atmosphere of safety, appreciation, and authenticity will diffuse tension and streamline both human connection and practical outcomes.

Decide on a Path Forward

The last step is to mutually discuss and decide on the path forward. Most conversations stop short of this critical point of closure. Decide what you are going to do with the knowledge and understanding you’ve acquired in this healthy, challenging, meaningful, and necessary conversation. Many of my clients will go through the steps above and will arrive at the point where there is a mutual understanding, personal connection, and even optimism in the situation. However, settling there is often not in full service of the ultimate goal. There must be closure, even if the closure is an explicit agreement to revisit the conversation later for further progress. Walk away with action items. Decide together who is going to do what and when; and say it out loud to ensure understanding. Contract around any agreed changes to process, structures, and behaviors. Leave nothing in the ether of assumption. Assumption is the land where good intentions get bludgeoned by poor understanding.

Lastly, all of this takes time, patience, and energy. Rightly invested time and energy at the point of disagreement will produce efficiency of thought, depth of understanding, and a successful outcome. When these simple best practices are employed consistently, they will become intuitive. It is then that you will find the disagreements you currently dread become opportunities, not obstacles; and the resulting outcomes and relationships will be deeper, stronger, safer, and more dependable.

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