Every Thanksgiving my wife, Carol, and I load up the car and head for Lebanon, Ky., for a wonderful meal and interesting family conversations. My sister, Sylvia, always cooks an impressive meal with all the trimmings for more than 30 people. After the meal we tell stories about family and career events and other topics that may be of interest. Mom lives about a mile from Sylvia, so this is an opportunity to visit with her also.
For the last three years, Sylvia has scheduled the big meal for Friday so we are traveling on Thanksgiving Day. Since most restaurants are closed on this day, Carol did an Internet search to find an eating place that might be open and have availability.
Surprisingly, in Maysville, Ky., (halfway for us) she found Caproni's Restaurant on the edge of the Ohio River. Prior to moving to Ohio, my family lived in Flemingsburg, Ky., and Maysville was where we did our Christmas shopping so there was a reminiscent air.
Caproni's does a Thanksgiving Day buffet for which it is best to have a reservation. It has become a three-year tradition for Carol and me. The tasty food is cooked family style and hits the spot. The waitresses have the familiar Kentucky hospitality and southern draw. A tenor saxophonist named David Hall plays during the meal sometimes switching to a clarinet or electric keyboard. His music is a nice touch for the ambiance.
Maysville is the home of Rosemary Clooney and her brother, Nick Clooney, the father of George Clooney. Pictures of the Clooneys and other impressive guests such as President Clinton and Smokey Robinson adorn the restaurant's walls.
We are not in a hurry but with full stomachs, we eventually head down the road to Sylvia's. By the time we arrive in Lebanon, Mom is usually ready for bed. Sylvia's three children and their families are already there. My daughter and her family drive in from Massachusetts and my son and his family often drive in from Charlotte, N.C. My younger brother, Jack, and his family arrive later in the day from Springfield, Missouri. Joe, my older brother, and his family arrive the following day from Frankfort, Kentucky, and New York to round out the attendees.
We often repeat this gathering for Mom's birthday in September and Christmas. The get-togethers are always enjoyable with seldom a cross word. Maybe it's the distance we hold the rest of the year that keeps us civil but I think it is the fact that we are family and truly enjoy one another's company.
Regular social gatherings and traditions bond positive relationships. This bonding at social events can occur with work groups also. In the past most companies held summer picnics and Christmas dinners for their employees. I suggest that even though they are expensive, the cost is returned through more effective relationships. This more relaxed interaction can allow people to see a different side of their peers, followers, and leaders. The success of these events will feed forward to work.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.