I remember watching the 2004 movie “Shall We Dance?” starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. I’m sure I only watched it is because my wife wanted to. After all, the title alone was enough to convince me that there would be no explosions, fight scenes, or any gratuitous blood loss. Definitely not a “guy movie.”
Gere’s character had come to realize that his life and marriage had both settled into a dull routine. Deciding to do something about it, he begins taking dance lessons after work from an attractive dance instructor played by Jennifer Lopez. And, of course, he lies about why he’s coming home late. His movie-wife, Sarandon’s character, begins to suspect him of cheating on her, so she hires a private investigator to get the low-down on her husband’s nocturnal behavior. When the PI brings the evidence to Sarandon assuring her that her husband is not cheating after all, both of them seem relieved, and he asks her, “Why is it that people get married?” She answers:
“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet … I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’”
I often think of traditions as being family-oriented, but of course traditions are not limited to the family framework. I believe that organizations and work teams develop their own traditions over time, and for good reason: we are social creatures, first and foremost. We need each other. You could argue that some need more than others, but in the end we all need other people in our lives to accomplish anything of value. It’s through our traditions and the rituals that we adhere to through which we bear witness to each other.
On most Friday mornings at about 9 a.m. in our office, we gather around to check in with each other, share what’s been going on during the week, what’s coming up next week, talk about weekend plans, and have a cup of coffee together. Sometimes we even talk a little business in between, though the primary purpose is to connect with one another as people.
These Friday morning gatherings have become a bit of a tradition for us over the past couple of years. Like any tradition, it gives us a feeling of belonging to something, a sense of connection. It’s also predictable. We put it on our shared calendar with the expectation that unless you’re out of the office on PTO or working with a client, we’ll all meet here to catch up with each other before the weekend.
This year, as we slide into the holiday season, I want to encourage all of us to think about the holiday traditions, rituals, and connections in our lives – both at home and at work. They bring meaning to our lives, and in their own way they help us to bear witness to each other’s lives and to those who have gone before us.
Traditions: They are part of the glue that keeps us together.
John Trombley retired from The Village Business Institute in 2019. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo where he serves as an adjunct faculty member. He is a motivational speaker with over 18 years of experience in providing training programs and consulting services in a wide variety of organization development scenarios. John is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator under ADR Rule 114, and is also certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.
Previously, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.