Traditions Matter: In Family AND Business

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Christmas Vacation - Traditions

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There is something special about traditions.  They establish what’s important, treasured and worth carrying on.  Traditions shape a culture.  They create memories and emotional feelings that run deep.  Traditions do not happen overnight, they happen over the course of many years.  Like life, it takes a long view to see the impact of traditions.

Family Traditions shape who we are as Adults.  Some come to mind….

  • Holiday traditions.
      • My wife remembers her favorite Thanksgiving Tradition?  Watching Neil Diamonds “Jazz Singer.”
  • Sunday Dinner:  Long on food.  Long on hours.  Plenty of spirited debate.  Bring your appetite, a sharp mind and a sharp tongue.
  • My father and I had a few traditions we remember vividly…
    • Working out on the ball fields.  Simple batting practice.  Or as I liked to call it, “dodge ball.”  My dad was a better businessman than accurate BP pitcher.  We laugh to this day at how many times his infamous knuckle-ball would hit my ankles.
    • Buying fireworks on the 3rd of July in NYC china town.  We dodged many dangerous venues scoring roman candles.

What’s enlightening about traditions are a few things:

  1. The memories are vivid, as if they happened yesterday.

  2. They SHAPE your view of “family.”

  3. They are almost always, SIMPLE, not extravagant.

BUSINESSES too can be shaped by rich traditions that re-enforce and shapes the organizational culture.  

Nearly every leader will acknowledge the power of CULTURE in an organization.  One of my favorite posts is a lessons from the hit show Friends, a Primer on Organizational Culture.  It showed how odd and inappropriate behavior, like a “butt slap” became a treasured display of acceptance.  

If traditions matter in family, what are leaders doing to create traditions that shape and build a culture that fuels excellence?

  • A CELEBRATION tradition.  How can you recognize and celebrate what you want to see more of?
    • Often times businesses can be pressure cookers, especially companies with aggressive growth targets.  Celebrating along the way is important to let people enjoy the ride and show appreciation.
    • Keep it simple, not costly.  It can be chocolate chip cookies and a Starbucks gift card presented to the team member who went above and beyond.  Brand the celebration and make it a consistent time interval.
  • Is SERVICE a competitive advantage (or do you aspire for it to be?)  Find ways to instill a “Delivering Service” tradition.
    • How do you create communications around service?  It does not need to be restricted to CUSTOMERS, but can be how peers aid each other in the name of service and team work.
    • The key is not to make the tradition a chore….like so many “newsletters” end up being.

Every organization has a Culture.  Meaningful traditions are one way a culture breathes.  Like most aspects of organizations, you can think through traditions with a simple acid test:

  • Do they INJECT oxygen into the organization?
  • Do they CONSUME oxygen?

Make sure your traditions breathe life into your culture.  Get people involved.  Welcome input. Welcome people to organize, shape and mold meaningful traditions in your business.  People will surprise you, if you give them the opportunity.

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  1. In my previous marriage my exx was entrenched in his traditions to the point of being militant. It took all the joy out of the season for me. I’ve been bucking tradition ever since my divorce, which has been good for me, but you’re right. I miss having something to hold onto on the special days.

    Becoming militant about traditions, filling them with expectations, only creates inordinate pressure on all those involved. There should always be room for growth and spontaneity. Otherwise your tradition is dead.

  2. Nice one, Mark! I had to smile while reading, bc your post brought me back to my childhood. Too many memories to recall. But traditions breed values, dont they? And I got a nice visual of the Olivito fam sitting around the dinner table on Sundays- multiple conversations going on, opinions, etc etc. Made me crack up bc that tradition is one I know well!
    Merry Christmas to you and the fam!

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