Intentional Community

Intentional Community

This writing is more personal than past blogs. My first inclination to write this blog was to celebrate the joy and experience of my family, particularly reflecting on a recent FAMILY REUNION. As the outline for the blog took shape around the word “family,” it became obvious that there were many applications to leadership and management that could be helpful to readers.

F – Father (Focus) – Families are different for everyone. In my case, my father was a very strong presence and influence. For several years, well, to be honest, for many years he tried to get all of the Forbus group together in the summer for a family reunion. Many gathered; I seemed to find it hard to find the time. He really wanted us to get together, even if it was just our small “branch” of the family tree on a more regular basis. As you know, it is easy to drift apart unless there is strong intentionality to make a family gathering top priority. He died in 2011. We didn’t make a family reunion a priority, so, we didn’t schedule. This small family reunion became reality a few weekends ago. (4th of July 2015) The driving force was that he would have wanted it to happen. The obligation to his wishes finally made all of set time aside. Our family gathered at my place. We sat for the obligatory picture, grilled, ate, laughed, watched the Women’s World Cup (USA won!) and did stupid stuff in the pool. In the back of my mind several times I thought, that my father would have enjoyed seeing that or experiencing that. His wishes became the centerpiece (focus) for the motivation to gather. It was a good time. There was a lot of talking, reminiscing and sharing life together. It was worth the effort. For us, my father was the initial reason to gather, the actual gathering was the result. It was a great experience.
A – All – All of us are stronger than any one of us. The fact that my family name is important to me is an understatement. Although our last name is spelled as it was pronounced upon arrival in the United States, we are a part of the Forbes Clan of Aberdeen, Scotland. I love our heritage. Over the last few years, I became more aware of the power of an excellent family name as people that my father had influenced for good shared their feelings for him at his passing. As I looked around my home the 4th of July weekend and observed people at our mini-family reunion, the warmth of tradition came over me. We were together! We were in community. Two of the grandchildren asked the “Blessing” for two different meals, both praying for the family. Wow, very special were the moments. Togetherness, no matter how it is celebrated and recognized in families or in an organization is special and powerful. In my coaching projects often recommendations include all-hands gatherings, off-sites or retreats. Something magical can happen when “all” of any group can be together.
M – Memories – Memories do not have to be spectacular, expensive and full of predetermined activities. Fond memories do not have to include a five-star hotel, some first-class flights and incessant entertainment to be valuable. This family reunion provided a lot of material for psychological research; stand up comics, and how to actualize healthy divergence. The swimming pool was one laboratory of study. The mealtimes another and general dialogue another. Some adults and children “showed out” in the pool. (“Showed out” is Southern US for daring and funny diving and weird pool float antics.) Others quietly did their thing around the pool. At mealtime, it was interesting to watch the maneuvering; the way adults and children prepared their plates for consumption and where each sat for their meal. I’m proud to say our family “mixed” well, not just the typical kids table and adult table. Informal intermingling is good for companies. Intentionally mixing things up is also good for any culture, at times. Be intentional about making memories.
I – Inclusion – My family believes that each of us is important and our differences make us stronger. It is a study in diversity and the art of managing behaviors, when we are together. We have the quiet (not many☺), we have the loud (too many), we have the creative, we have the organized and we have the pushy. Our family also includes the messy, the athletic, the musical, the bossy and the compliant. We have a few humble ones, and some of the opposite of humble ones and the sensitive and chatty-interrupters. We are family. It takes higher risk to be inclusive. The high-risk of inclusion also brings about a higher “return” on the potential of the composite outcome. The same is true for our family. When I consider all the talent, divergence, brainpower and general abilities, our full expression as a family is powerful. In companies and organizations, the same is true. It takes careful organizing to express a full corporate effect. Healthy divergence can be something very commanding.
L – Loving – One of my grandchildren told me he loved me because I was funny and generous. I’m cool with that. Some of us are unexpressive about our love for the family, while others are expressive. If all the adults could act like the children when it comes to expressiveness, we’d all be better off. The grandchildren almost quiver with emotion as they see their cousins come through the door. They hug and smile and jump immediately into some play activity. They even cry when they have to separate to go to their homes, at times. Love holds us together. Love gets us through the tough times. Love helps us ignore the differences. This is true, in my opinion, in professional and other relationships, as well. Although it may not be defined as love in the professional realm, showing kindness, admiration and caring always helps the professional workplace to thrive. Respect seems to surface in much of my group work as organizations strive to create operating principles. Loving-kindness, even in organizational life, is a fantastic principle to adopt.
Y – Yielding – Coming together often or not, families, groups, teams or organizations should work at yielding to others’ ideas and needs. In the family setting, yielding may be informal and range from submission to just committing to get along. Submitting to the group’s ideas and creating an environment, where all have a “voice,” is a great tactic for families and organizations. Of course, everyone’s opinion can’t be adopted every time, and, it is not fair that some never get their ideas or opinions implemented. Pliability as a group brings agility and adaptability. Flex in your teamwork. Often when working with organizational teams, we emphasize how a team’s malleability is important to innovation, stretching to new goals and synergy. Yielding to the opinions and ideas of a group discussion brings synergy and a level of professional bonding.

Community is a powerful occurrence if we are intentional with it. The Forbus Family Reunion reminded me of the fun, emotion and sentimentality that being, and even, working together can bring. Teamwork has been overused through the years as an easy term for any incident that requires a group. Teamwork and realizing real community in a family, organization or business requires work. (That’s why it is calling teamwork. It has intentionality and purpose. My hope is that your “group” involvement will be real and purposeful and full of enlivened community experiences.

Rick Forbus, PhD

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