The concept of Unity came forefront in my mind while listening to a sermon at a wedding. This was one of the better wedding sermons I have heard.  It focused on the oneness in marriage and in the married couple’s purpose; moving forward in a mutual direction for the common good of all involved with no private agendas.  I harkened back to my own wedding over 30 years ago and heard the words “whatever Robert does for Robert, he does for Victoria and whatever he does for Victoria, he does for Robert”.

The definition of Unity is the state of being one; combining all its parts into one – among a number of persons.  A synonym I particularly like is harmony and the best example to me of combining parts into harmony is Crosby, Stills, & Nash singing “Helplessly Hoping”.

A few days after that wedding, the song “If We Are the Body” by Casting Crowns came up in my song list shuffle play.  It is a good song that touches on the desired unity of the Church, where those not in the inner circle are also included.  I like the analogy of the body as a good one for Unity.  Unity is something that is living, it is not mechanical. The human body is an organic unity. It consists of many parts: toes, fingers, hands, feet, legs, eyes, ears, etc.; but it is not a collection of parts put together such as an automobile or a house.

As a football coach I know that a successful football team is another example of unity. A combination of a diversely talented individuals from different backgrounds working together harmoniously for the good of the whole. No inner circles and no hidden agendas.

Creating Unity is not so much a program that is needed, but an environment.  Unity can’t be coached like a skill set or learned in a webinar.  However, Coaches and Leadership can create the proper atmosphere and seed the growth of unity.   Create this type of environment and you will have highly driven teams.

At my company we adopted the slogan “Power of Us” for an annual leadership summit.  We had participants from across the country and various roles come together.  The company has 2000+ employees in three major headquarter locations, multiple distribution and integration centers and 25% of the employees working remote from a home office.  Somewhat of a challenge to create unity. A key takeaway from the summit was the need to create the appropriate atmosphere within the company’s culture no matter where the location.

Unity happens

  • When team members care more about the vision, purpose and health of the team or organization than they do their own personal agenda.
  • When each person on the team can clearly see how their personal vision and effort contributes to the overall vision and success of the team.
  • When you weed out the negativity that sabotages far too many organizations.
  • When coaches and leaders are committed to and engaged in the process of building a united, winning team first and not as a backseat to producing short-term results.
  • Through open communication, accountability, and trust.
  • When there is love, “philios”.

Philios means close friendship or brotherly love in Greek. It is one of the four types of love in the Bible.  It is the most general form of love in the Bible, encompassing love for fellow humans, care, respect, and compassion for people in need. Love and hidden agendas cannot co-exist.  One of my favorite scriptures is from 1 Peter 3:8 – “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  What I like about the scripture is the note to have harmony with ‘unity of mind’ and a humble mind – it does not say that we all need to the same.

The football team has used the slogan “One Heartbeat” for years. It is more than just a motto; it truly is the essence of who we are as a team. To have one heartbeat, there must be a higher calling than being just a team.  The higher calling requires respect, compassion – philios.  For a unified company there needs to be a strong corporate culture, a culture based on more than stated values and mission statements. It’s essential that all members of a team or company are moving with a shared vision, focus, purpose and direction.  A truly shared vision and purpose needs to have respect for fellow employees (i.e. love) at its core.  Unity is love of a spouse, love of a teammate, love for brotherhood and sisterhood.

“True love does not come by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”- Jason Jordan.  Seeing an imperfect person perfectly; plug the word spouse, teammate, business colleague, neighbor, etc. in for person. Love requires intentional effort, as does unity – neither will just happen.

However, it’s not easy to bring people together. Agendas, egos, politics, power struggles, negativity, poor leadership, mismanagement, and a lack of vision, focus and purpose all prevent a team from uniting and performing at their highest level. There are hundreds of potential negative forces and factors that can sabotage unity and it only takes a few to accomplish the disruption. The good news is that there are great examples of unified teams showing us it is possible.

The default behavior for human beings is to think in terms of their own “inner circles”. If you work in a small department in a big company, you’re naturally going to identify most closely with your immediate colleagues. Easy to love those that you agree with, those that you know – harder to love strangers and your fellow man.  Cliques, another name for inner circles, within teams and organizations poisons the environment such that unity cannot take root.

One definition of Unity I read includes the phrase “the absence of diversity.”  I disagree with that completely. There is a need for diversity in unity.  Think of the human body again; the parts do not look alike, they do not function alike, yet, they are all important, needed, interdependent, and all work toward the same end.  Some of the parts are within the body and are unseen, but nevertheless, very important. Each part of the body is integrated into the whole.  A football team has skilled players that most often get the attention, but without interior lineman doing their job they can’t be successful.  How successful would a sales rep be without internal support?

Unity is not a uniformity, nor does it require assimilation.  Those ‘extreme’ perceptions by some people on either side of the social spectrum are doing more harm than good and driving us as a nation away from Unity.  The mindset that we all need to be alike to be united is elitist, while at the same time the mindset that I lose my identity when I become unified is narrow-minded.  We need to embrace diversity as part of Unity and we need to recognize that the sum of all parts working cohesively together is larger than that of the whole, and the value of integration is paramount to the success. Being “additive” does not destroy objects in the current blend nor does it destroy that which is being combined.  Integrate the best of what each party offers. Unity does not mean we must all become exactly alike as our variety gives richness to our existence.

The history of the world when it comes to Unity within Nations:

  • Nations with ethnic and racial uniformity, not diversity.
  • Boundaries reflected language, religious, and ethnic homogeneity.
  • Diversity within a nation was considered a liability, not a strength.
  • Countries that were ethnically homogeneous felt they were more stable and secure.
  • Imagine someone of Japanese descent to be fully accepted as a Mexican citizen, or vice-versa.
  • Nazi Germany was incorporating all the German “Volk” into one vast racially and linguistically harmonious “Reich”.
  • Deadly force used to keep the factions in line. Think about the Soviet Union, Rwanda, and Iraq with Shia’s and Sunni’s.

America has been history’s exception. It began as a republic founded by European migrants that due to the definitive logic of a unique Constitution it steadily evolved to define Americans by their shared values, not by their superficial appearance. Eventually, anyone who was willing to champion the core values of the Constitution became an American.  America is a collection of different personality types; various economic levels; variety of opinions; and very different backgrounds (culture, environment, experience).  But, as Americans, there are certain basic, fundamental things we share and must agree on. These things tie us together. However different we may be in a variety of secular ways, there is a spiritual and practical unity we enjoy – based on this common bond.

The European Union may well tear itself apart by taking in millions of disparate migrants who are reluctant to become unified with their new country and share their values.

America is the great melting pot.  “E Pluribus Unum” – From Many to One.  Some more PC minded people are now arguing the semantics that as opposed to being a melting pot (where you are assimilated and lose your identity), America needs to be a “salad” where the individual maintains its identity, but adds to whole.  No matter what cliché or analogy we choose to use, we must preserve the ideals that made America successful as the unifying ‘one heartbeat’.  When we are together there is no greater nation, and the same applies to teams and organizations. There will still be problems but collectively they will be solved much easier than individually. Abe Lincoln said it best “A house divided cannot stand among itself.”

The need for Unity is driven by competition.  In sports it is the desire to win the game, have a successful record or win the championship.  In business it is the need to make a profit, hit earnings targets and grow the business against your competition. In marriage it is the resolve to excel as a couple, build a loving household and to honor the sacrament.  In a church it is the drive to honor God and achieve eternal salvation. In a nation it is to defend our nation’s sovereignty and maintain our freedom.  Think back to WWI & WWII, 9/11, the Great Depression – these were trigger points to rally the nation and drive unity.  Through unity we overcame hardships and defeated enemies. Today we need a unified nation more than ever as we fight among ourselves, against ISIS, terrorism and to regain our place in the world.  It seems as if we are far from being united.  Let’s start with more love in our everyday lives.

Whether we’re talking about a marriage, a sports team, a company, a church or even a Nation; unity is the basis for success.

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