The Value of Traditions

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As summer turns to fall and leaves change, we have ushered in one of my favorite seasons of the year — college football season. In addition to the game itself, many are drawn to college football because of the traditions and pageantry that accompany rooting for your favorite school.

This past weekend, my family made our annual football weekend trip to Notre Dame. This is an extremely meaningful tradition for us, and one we look forward to every year. As we walked around campus, I was reminded of the value of traditions. From listening to the band play the fight song, to eating at a favorite dining hall, to donning your team colors, traditions bind us together. Likewise, traditions also hold special meaning for organizations and team members:

  • Traditions build a sense of belonging.

People possess an innate desire to be part of something larger than themselves. It compels each of us to serve in our own way, from Board members to staff members, volunteers to donors. Traditions cultivate that sense of belonging and higher purpose.

  • Traditions build bridges linking the past, present, and future.

Through the stories, rituals, and habits passed down over time, people gain a unique appreciation of an organization’s history, evolution, and vision as well as a connection to those who have come before, serve now, and will serve in the future.

  • Traditions both reflect and reinforce values and culture.

The primary way in which individuals experience the values and culture of an organization are through the actions of those they serve with. Traditions serve to illuminate these values and bring the culture of an organization to life.

  • Traditions hold space for reflection.

It is easy to get carried away with daily routines and challenges. Traditions provide an opportunity for each of us to pause and reflect, while reconnecting to our vision and the ideals that underlie our commitment to the organization and our teammates.

When was the last time you asked your team about the organizational traditions they value? What is the equivalent of the “fight song” and treasured campus memory for your organization? I invite you to reflect with me this month on the traditions that inspire your organization and team.