Today my family said our goodbyes and set off to our various homes across the world, after 10 days together over Christmas. As always, we remembered how much we love each other, how we click back into the family grove together, and how much we enjoy each other's company.
I dedicated my book "Walking the Talk" to my children and the culture we created together. Like any family, we have our rituals, our roles and our habits. Underneath we have some shared values, and some of these originate from the years of personal development which established some good habits about how to hold real conversations with each other.
I was reminded that there are a few universal skills and values which, if practised regularly, will lift the quality of relationship, and of the culture built within a group of people. This can be particularly useful for those companies wishing to instill a 'People-First culture'. Good communication skills and the desire to be open, to be honest with feelings, to express differences of opinion produces an environment in which everyone can feel supported and true to themselves. On one level a family can hang out together and have some laughs. On another level there can be undercurrents - resentments that build up over time, things left unsaid. At first I find it easy to stay at the surface, and avoid the more difficult, honest conversations. But then I start to feel that I am holding parts of myself back. Everything feels somewhat superficial. The effort put into having the real conversation pays back tenfold in the enhanced relationship that follows.
I find the same pattern in the workplace. A culture which encourages real conversations produces a higher level of trust and engagement. The stage is set for those moments where the business requires total open-ness. Individuals feel that they can bring their whole self to work. Leaders who can facilitate this level of relationship find that they can more easily build many other characteristics into their culture, such as team work and accountability. For this reason, I consider open communication to be a universal value which should find a place in any culture plan.
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