By June of 1972, I had finished my first year of college and Dad hired me as a carpenter's helper to work on the houses he built on his property that bordered State Route 800 near Malaga.
That summer Mom determined that since the slippage of time and the accumulation of responsibility would make family trips logistically more difficult in the future, we should drive to Florida to visit my Great Uncle Hewson. Neither Jack nor I had ever seen the ocean so we were excited by what awaited us. Dad chose to stay at home to tend the livestock.
Mid morning Joe, Jack, Mom and I headed toward Columbus and then to Cincinnati where we heard the first "you alls." Halfway to Cincinnati we blew a tire and Mom deftly brought the wounded car to a halt. We made it to Lebanon, Kentucky where my sister lived just before dark.
The next morning we snaked our way south through Kentucky and Tennessee crossing the mountains at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One more day of driving found us in Jacksonville, Florida where our Great Uncle Hewson and Aunt Beth lived. It was our first and only meeting. Uncle Hewson was a retired school teacher who was blinded by a hunting accident when he was twelve and had a unique view of the world. I learned a lot with our conversations.
While in Florida our tourism took us to the Jacksonville Zoo, Marineland, the historic fort at St. Augustine, and Ripley's Believe It or Not. But the ocean captured my heart. The smell of the salt water was all around us. Jack and I ran from the parked car to catch the first view of the immense body of water and to feel the crash of waves on our backs. The ocean overwhelmed its billing and was hard to leave only hours later.
On the way home, Jack caught tropical butterflies, beetles and moths to add to our collection. We traveled through Dayton, Tenn., where the Scopes Monkey Trial was held. Mom told us that Uncle Hewson had attended that famous court case on evolution. With our rapt attention Mom told us other family stories about her grandfather being held by Abraham Lincoln and that he regularly went hunting with Cordell Hull, President Roosevelt's Secretary of State during World War II. It was a delightful, experiential trip for us all.
This road trip was a key bonding experience for us. For most of a week the whole family (except for Dad) was crowded into a car. We told stories, laughed and enjoyed the companionship of family. Some of the best leaders I have known tried to create positive group experiences. One plant manager took his staff down the New River. Another one had me secure several crew boats for her staff to row on the Muskingum River. Others have had me facilitate discussions about how to be effective teams. Respectful dialogue is the key to strong relationships and strong relationships enable teams to be more productive.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's completely revised, third printing of "The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.