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Building A Family Culture at Work

by Elaine Cercado

Teens spent an average of nine hours a day online, according to a research done in the USA. What was also concerning was the findings about how kids felt about their parents’ use of technology. While 72% of parents said their teen was distracted by their phone while having real-life conversations, 51% of teens said the same about their parents. (1,2)

Ironically, technology and society’s advancement, which are supposed to bring people closer together, have made us more remote from each other – be it at home or at work. People have become distracted and detached, immersed in mobile devices, social media and other technological applications that it’s become difficult to have meaningful and unhurried conversations.

From this perspective, I consider it a blessing that when my son was growing up, at least up to middle school, mobile technology and content streaming services were not as common as today. In a way, the simplicity made us more purposeful and thoughtful.

For instance, as parents, we intentionally didn’t watch TV on weekdays for two reasons. We wanted to establish our son’s reading and study habits, and to serve as role models for him.  We had home-made dinners and conversations every night, and shared with each other our stories of challenges and victories.

At our family dinner conversations, we would share our ‘3 highs and 3 lows’ for the day.  For our son, it could be as simple as “I enjoyed playing football during our P.E. class”.  One of the lows he would say was “our team lost to…” As parents, we were quick to motivate him to keep giving his best and have fun. At one of the feedback sessions with his P.E. (physical education) teacher, his attitude towards losing became an improvement action, which was to participate in more team-based sports. 

At work, having regular face-to-face conversations with team members and peers can lead to many wonderful discoveries and developments, such as clarity, deeper insights, empathy, openness, closer relationship and improvement action. A leader need not wait for an annual performance feedback session to have these conversations.

We protected and valued our bonding time as a family, and time with friends and community. On weekends, our family would go to arcades and have fun, or play board games at home. We would schedule playdates with friends, or go out to practice and play sports. We observed rituals and traditions with extended family and friends during special holidays and milestone celebrations. As a family, we committed to integrate our spiritual values in our way of life and voluntarily served our faith community.

At work, sense of purpose and balance is more critical than ever. The search for and fulfillment of the WHY of life has to go beyond the corners of the office. Cultivating a strong culture that allows and supports a purposeful and balanced life enriches and empowers the team members. 

Purpose-driven, balanced and empowered teams are inclined to build healthy relationships, and improve employee engagement and satisfaction in the organization, which can impact the present and future state of the business.

As we bonded more in our family, we learned to listen, accept and understand each other better. We became more attuned to each other’s strengths and talents, and learned how to support when challenges came. 

It was in one summer course that we discovered our hyperactive 11 year old son could actually sit still for two hours with sketchpad on hand or canvas in front, and produce an excellent artwork. What was initially planned as a one-time art session became a weekend activity over two years, which led to several art exhibits in Singapore’s Esplanade. This became a seed for his passion, and led to his university degree, architectural design.

As parents, we role modeled, communicated regularly, balanced our activities, nurtured our child’s talents and passion – all while staying grounded on our family values of faith, love, joy, learning, growth and service.

While we have changed and grown through the seasons of life, our family culture – based on our values and ingrained practices through the years – have remained. Our day-to-day and weekly practices since our son’s birth became part of our family DNA and culture, which have made us more balanced, self-aware, socially-aware, tight-knit, purposeful and joyful. 

As leaders, if we approach work with the same consistency and intensity as we would as parents, could we build a lasting team culture we want at work? Could we lead and love our team members and colleagues like parents would, and do these in alignment with the team and organizational values?

In today’s digital world, technologies enable – or disable – our day-to-day decisions and actions. The reality is that building a family or organizational culture today is not as simple as 20 years ago. Yet there are timeless and universal human needs and desires – such as belongingness, relationships, sense of purpose, balance, appreciation, growth, contribution, legacy – that remain the same.

Leaders today are more challenged – but they are also more technologically supported and empowered. With purpose, courage, energy, consistency, leaders today can effectively build the organizational culture they desire!


(1)   Research on teens and parents spending too much time on phones

(2) Research on how many hours teens spend consuming media