Unity is critical to creating a winning culture, and winning cultures are built on trust. Family is a commonly used metaphor for teams that are trying to build the chemistry, cohesion, and character it takes to win and compete at a high level. The idea of family evokes strong emotions because (for many of us) it represents a lifelong bond (for good or for bad) that is nearly impossible to replicate in any other area of life. Familial bonds create a unified culture because it takes a lifetime of relational deposits to achieve this deepest kind of trust. Great teams learn to tap into this resource of trust by behaving like a well-functioning family. What results is a brotherhood or sisterhood that is not the result of chance, but rather the culmination of learning to act like a true family.
Families fight fair (and well!)
Unity is built on understanding, and understanding is born out of healthy conflict. Learning to fight fair is one of the critical skills a family can learn. Conflict (in the context of relationships) undresses our proclivity to hide the most vulnerable parts of who we are. It reveals the insecurities, insincere niceties, and superficial masks that we use to maintain artificial harmony with those around us. Conflict brings the ugly realities (and trivialities) into the light and exposes them to the fresh air of truth and transparency. Fighting well allows us to air our grievances in a way that propels us towards a more stable equilibrium. Knowing that my brother or sister has the courage to confront me builds confidence. In short, fighting well releases me from my insecurity of having to guess what someone thinks of me. Think about the relief you felt the last time you worked through difficult conflict with someone in your life (especially with a family member). Put simply, the pain of conflict produces understanding, and understanding builds a greater depth of unity and trust.
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Families tell the truth
Families learn to tell the truth and live unoffended. Truth telling is critical to creating a culture of unity with your team or organization. Families and teams who tell the truth understand the deadliness of deceit. Telling the truth (or at the very least not lying) has a supernatural quality all its own. It frees us to be ourselves without having to hide behind the pretense of being something we are not. This authenticity comes from having the courage to tell the truth even when the truth is difficult to say out loud. The truth puts all our cards on the table and allows families (and teams) to get on the same page moving forward. When your team gets comfortable hearing the truth (from both players and coaches), it has the power to spur growth and create camaraderie when done with the right spirit. Truth has an antiseptic quality all its own; it has the power to clean, enliven, and regenerate even the most dysfunctional teams.
Families serve sacrificially
Families train themselves to sacrifice for one another, to commit to serving the group’s needs above the individual’s. Sacrificial service is best exemplified in doing the small things that bring teams and families together. Unity is cultivated in the small acts of selflessness, the little acts of service that speak louder than words. From cleaning the locker room to making the extra pass on the court, an “others-centered” culture is found in the small acts of “dying to self” that make teams (and families) great. The teammates and families who are willing to give of their time, talents and treasure to build into something greater than themselves are the ones that experience the greatest unity. Ultimately, sacrifice is a choice that must be made over and over again in order to build a bond of unbreakable trust.