Let's Make a Tradition of Tradition
I was listening to Mila Kunis’ (Bad Moms and That 70’s show) interview, on Dax Sheppard’s podcast Armchair Expert, last week and was really intrigued by a tradition she has with her family. Mila is Jewish, and in Jewish tradition observes Shabbat, a day of rest between sundown on Friday to Saturday night. In her household, Mila created a tradition of gathering the family together on Friday night, having dinner, lighting candles and reciting prayers. The coolest part of the tradition was that they go around the table and apologize for anything they might have done that was hurtful to another person. That way they are able to let go of their resentment and reset for the week. How cool is that?
Listening to the episode made me think about the traditions I have had throughout my life, at work and at home, and how they have provided comfort to all those involved. The familiarity of a tradition gives you a reason to act intentionally. You know it is going to happen, so you prepare for it and make the most of it. You are left with the contentment of the familiar, and the joy of going through it.
My parents divorced when I was eight. Because of that, I lived with my mom and didn’t get to see my dad as much as I did before. In order for us to continue our relationship, and make the best of the situation, we started creating traditions. It was not done intentionally, it was something that just happened (probably due to my dad’s OCD tendencies). Every Monday my dad would take me to school instead of me having to take the bus. I would come down the elevator, and as soon as I hit the lobby I would see his blue sedan parked in front of the building with him waiting for me. I would get in, we would listen to Brazilian music and we would go to school. I loved it. Looked forward to it and still cherish the memories created by this little tradition. We also went to soccer games every Sunday and discussed my five-year plan, went to walk on the beach on weekends, and ate ham and cheese sandwiches at the local deli. Every week. They were our traditions and they brought us closer together.
At work, if you do it well, traditions can be just as comforting as the personal examples given above. In one of my first jobs, as a Direct Marketing Coordinator, we had morning huddles every day. The huddles entailed getting the team together and talking about what was in store for the day. We would go around the table and share what was coming in, who needed help, and any “wins” we had the day before. On Fridays we typically had someone bring in food. Sometimes it was doughnuts, sometimes it was bagels. One time someone brought McDonald’s cheeseburgers cut into quarters (I will never forget that).
This tradition allowed us to grow together as a team. We looked forward to Friday mornings and sharing with our coworkers. We came to the huddles prepared and looked forward to hearing from each other. The result was that we had one of the strongest teams in the client services division where we had each other’s backs and enjoyed collaborating with one another. I can’t say that the tradition alone allowed that to happen, but gosh darn it, it had A LOT to do with it.
The same team also had a bell that we rang every time we provided added value. We all got excited to go up and ring the bell when our work resulted in additional revenue for the team. We got very good at tooting our own horn and making it a tradition of ours.
Further in my career I was part of a leadership team that got away every year for a “Leaders Retreat”. We would travel for a week of leadership training and bonding with our fellow leaders. Being a leader is not only a thankless position (if you are getting the credit instead of your team, you are doing it wrong), but it is a lonely one as well. Not everyone knows the trials and tribulations of being a leader. Being able to spend a whole week with my peers, learning and enjoying ourselves, led to a strong and aligned leadership team. Some of my best work memories came from those trips.
Having traditions matter. At work and at home. We are able to transcend the day-to-day by getting together and making the most out of each other. The only way to make it happen is to ensure that you do it consistently, that everyone participates, and that the team gets something out of it. If you are able to establish purposeful traditions with your teams you will see them grow closer, and who knows, someday they might even write a blog of their fond memories of the experience.
Andre Mello is a Certified Business Coach and Mila Kunis is his, wife approved, hall pass (Mila, if you read this, call me). He has been in marketing and leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre please visit www.wysecoaching.com