Building a Culture United in Triumph

On Sunday, the Snowbirds started a cross country tour and did a flyover in our city – and fortunately for us, they flew directly over our neighbourhood.  The purpose of the tour is to recognize all the front line workers and all citizens who are doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As with many things in life, there are often unanticipated consequences.

As the hour approached, we went out on the street. One of our neighbours was on his roof with his camera equipped with a mega-zoom lens. At about 10 to 3, other neighbours began gathering at the ends of their driveways and dispersed around our cul-de-sac. As we’re looking skyward, all of sudden you can hear them in the distance. It took me a while to recall the physics of the speed of light and the speed of sound – and the speed of the Snowbirds. My eyes eventually caught up with them. As I locked onto the 9-plane formation, it turned towards our street and less than 1,000 feet overhead, they soared by. I was drowning in emotion.

And even as they were approaching, I could feel an overwhelming dose of oxytocin (not oxycontin) surge through my system. It was extremely emotional – and not just for me. Also for Lyn and for every one of our neighbours on the street. I can only imagine the emotional condition I’d have been in if the national anthem was being played at the same time.

Oxytocin is the social neurotransmitter. It promotes human connectedness and I do not know if “feeling more connected” was one of the intended consequences of the flyovers, but that 20-second experience has given me a strong connection to the rest of my country – and fortunately, I believe it will be lodged in my longterm memory till the day I leave this earth. I truly know we are in this together and I want to be a part of the solution.

That shot of oxytocin instilled in me a huge sense of gratitude to the countless people who are working to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to keep me and you safe and more importantly, solidified my commitment to be part of the solution.

Here’s the thing – while you can’t orchestrate a jet flyover in the midst of a pandemic to unite your people, you can do something to get them committed to being part of the solution in your organization. Here are a few ideas I’ve seen work:

  • Share stories of past organizational challenges and how you overcame them together
  • Again and again and again, talk about your vision for your organization and help people see how their contribution connects to the vision
  • Individually remind your people that first and foremost, you value them as a human being – check in with them about their family
  • Practice gratitude exercises as a team. A few suggestions:
    • Start every meeting (virtual or otherwise) with a round of gratitudes
    • Have people share what they are grateful for about their colleagues – in meetings or in other public forums
    • Have a place (electronic or physical) where people can post gratitudes and read other people’s gratitudes
  • Find creative ways to remind people that you’re in this together
  • Invite people to share their stories of adversity and triumph
  • Have a source of inspiration that keeps you energized and positive – you need a powerful source of inspiration now more than ever

This should get you started but please share more about what you are doing in the comments below.

[NOTE: thanks to neighbour Rob Canning for his skilled photography – he’s at and on Instagram as rob_canning]


Steve Foran
Steve Foran
I began exploring the relationship between gratitude and philanthropic giving while completing my Masters in Business. Since then, I’ve been writing and conducting practice-based gratitude research and teaching the habits of grateful leadership - close to fifteen years now. What has emerged is our science-based program, Gratitude At Work. It's a simple, yet innovative approach to thriving leadership and business growth. I founded Gratitude at Work in 2007 and started hosting conversations in my community which have since grown into work with leaders across Canada and into the United States, shifting cultures, helping leaders and their teams bring more gratitude to work each day. My 2019 book, Surviving to Thriving - The 10 Laws of Grateful Leadership, was named 1 of 8 recommended reads by Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley and 1 of 5 positive psychology books for a happier 2019 in INC. Also in 2019, I was an inaugural winner of Canada's CEO Trusted Advisor Awards Program. I’m a son, brother, husband, father and newly minted grandfather. My kids poke fun at my gratitude work (air quotes) and in 2017, I was awarded the highest earned designation in professional speaking, CSP. I recently created STATUSGRO to give everyone easy on-line access to the secrets of gratitude and grateful leadership. I’m a lifelong resident of Halifax and doing my part to make my community a better place to live.

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