This weekend I am off to Hamilton to row in the Gallagher Great Race regatta. A fantastic event, that while dating back to 2002 in New Zealand, is set in the tradition of University of Oxford and University of Cambridge races from the early 1800s.

In the inaugural Great Race regatta, and subsequently in 2003, I had the pleasure of taking on, and beating, the international crews from Oxford and Cambridge. So this year I’ve found myself in an 8, racing just before the big showdown between Waikato, Sydney University and Queensland Universities. The race should prove an interesting, and I hope worthy, opening to the main events of our younger counterparts’ races.

The races are taking place in central Hamilton, on the Waikato River – one of the swiftest and toughest rowing rivers in the world. And what’s more, we’ll be rowing 3.85km upstream! It will be bloody hard work.

While our recent success at the Olympics reflects just how good we are at it, rowing is generally a hidden sport. Unless you are part of the rowing fraternity you don’t typically get to see a race of this esteem live. So what does traditions such as these really mean?

For me, I see traditions as a great tool to motivate staff, instil desired behaviours, build emotive culture and add credibility to an organisation. The funny thing is traditions don’t have to take hundreds of years to establish, they can emerge quickly and without any planning. And you can use them to your advantage.

Look at Apple. They have created a whole culture based on the tradition of mystifying their new products, which can only be released by their leader at a huge event. People want to be part of the mystery, speculation abounds and on day one and customers queue at midnight to buy the next big thing, often without actually knowing what they products specifications or market price comparison.

Of course it doesn’t have to be on this grand scale. Rituals and traditions go hand in hand. Beer o’clock Friday, creating your own ways of celebrating success, annual team building days, buzzwords, nicknames for your internal teams can all create this sense of community. When that’s strong, others want to be join, or be associated with it.

Hey, it can even be throwing your Cox overboard at the finishing line, which is certainly what I intend to do on Sunday!

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