The following is a story speaking to what it means to have a family and the importance of supporting each other when the going gets tough.
By Don Cooper, CEO.
“We look after each other. What does this mean and how do we get there?
It’s all about your own mindset.
Imagine in the mind – a strong family, an adult family. Parents, Grandparents, Adult Kids, Aunts & Uncles & Cousins.
You might sometimes fight internally but you’d defend them always against external forces – always.
An adult family is more complex than a young family.
In a young family, it’s about dependence – kids are dependent on the parents to do and give them everything.
As the kids become teenagers and young adults they push for independence. But still expect the parents to be their backup.
As we move toward a solid adult family, the parents have built a strong foundation, the kids work and live strong lives and the family lives interdependent. Looking after each other.
In a business, how do you get there?
Let’s look at military boot camps, training and elite teams.
In the marines they have a 10 week boot camp. During that time the troops train hand in hand with their leaders. They together toil in the pain to get each other ready. But it’s not just about getting individuals ready, it’s about getting ready together. That 110% prep and planning creates the team.
Over that first 10 weeks, some wrong fit people drop out and those who remain don’t call each other coworkers – they think of themselves as Brothers and Sisters. They don’t build their trust to look after each in battle, on the job. They do it in their preparation, their training, their planning, their communication and their collaboration.
After boot camps and further team training, elite teams practice practice and practice – leaders together with the team. Everyone is cross trained in the 80% skills of the team and then each team member has specialties to make the team far better than the sum of its parts.
I’ve experienced this team intensive first hand at the ages of 15, 16 and 17.
At 15, I trained with a group of kids in the mountains of the Yukon and Alaska. At the start there were strangers. Fit, fat, smart, and dumb kids alike – some started off ever unprepared while others had prepared in advance.
We hiked, rock climbed, camped and carried heavy packs for weeks together. We carried each other’s packs, we got frustrated with leaders who pushed us and we squabbled with team members who whined and slowed us down.
Then we boarded a bus and drove to Alaska and began. We spent 6 days hiking from sea level up the Chilkoot Pass to the top of a mountain range, over a glacier and on to Bennett Lake, BC. No one was left behind and we completed the journey.
At 16 – another group of strangers met on Baffin Island – trained and toiled in the Arctic which culminated with a 5 day trek from a coastal beach up and across mountains and across tundra plains to cross the arctic circle together.
At 17 yet another group of strangers met in Edmonton for 3 weeks of intensive physical training. Running in full combat gear 10 to 12 miles a day, hundreds of on demand and in sequence push ups and chin ups while an Airborne drill Sergeant tried to break us and get us to quit.
As the weeks went on and we’d have our hands wrapped around our helmets and we’d be held in a half push up. We strangers would yell at each other to don’t dare think about quitting. Our encouragement kept each other in the game.
It turned out the airborne instructors were not training to get us to quit, they were working to draw us together.
The 36 of us that made it through the program did it together and as we jumped out of C-130’s over the city of Edmonton we were both scared and proud. But to this day, I don’t think of what I did to survive it. I think about what we 36 did together and if I saw one of them today 29 years later, they’d be my brothers.
Today – I still know the faces and names of my teams from those summers.
We took care of each other – we looked after each other – we took care of our own. It’s powerful and it works.”
Family By Choice
With that story in mind, during this time of lockdown and uncertainty, the mindset of looking after each other is more important than ever.
This is an opportunity for all of us to step back and examine our relationships. It’s a chance to examine what’s most important and to come together as a family when each and every one of us is experiencing the same uncertainty about the future.
While we can’t know exactly how or when this COVID situation will end, we do know that we can prepare for such a time by doubling down on our efforts to make sure everyone we care about, from relatives to coworkers to customers, is fully supported.
Families – whether by blood or by choice, are often defined as such by the experiences they have shared together and the obstacles they have overcome.
By doing our best to support each other during this pivotal time, we exit this crisis as a shared experience that bonds us all together for years to come.