How team rituals can improve workforce performance

Rituals can be used to achieve certain expected behaviors both in individuals and teams

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: May 17, 2019 12:55:09 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

A ritualis defined as a series of actions or a specific type of behaviour exhibited periodically and without questioning by someone. They are actions performed by individuals or groups that bring meaningful and sometimes senseless but magical meaning into their experiences. Rituals are powerful tools that can enable you to form a new habit and get rid of old habits, improve and build relationships, and bring about transformation.

Are there any rituals you follow at home in your personal lives? I am sure most of us will be able to think of a few, for example, lighting incense every morning, or brushing and flossing before going to bed at night. How do they impact your life? Similarly, you may have some rituals at work.

Quite interestingly, research shows, rituals have a unique power to bring people together and give them a sense of purpose, connection, and meaning. They can unite people and bring out deeper emotions particularly in sports, politics, and religion.

We can harness this power of rituals in organisations in the corporate world too.

Rituals can shape the company culture
The practice of creating rituals towards specific objectives is often an instrument or tool that is used in defining and shaping the culture of a team, department or organisation. Intentionally or unintentionally every organisation creates and develops its unique culture. The culture of a business affects the interactions between the various stakeholders, individuals and parties that are part of the organisation. The culture is built by defining the vision, mission and core values of the company, however, rituals are one of the methods to execute it.

How to create rituals to improve company culture As a part of organisational culture transformation, several specialised training and consulting companies help employees create rituals for their teams for various reasons. Some of those reasons could be

  • New employee onboarding to ensure they automatically start imbibing the culture: Assigning a buddy and a mentor can help translate and explain the company culture to a new employee
  • Improving connection across geographically dispersed offices: Making sure that you start every virtual meeting with a quick video connection first can be a good ritual for this.
  • Facilitating collaboration among employees interested in similar areas but working in different areas: Instituting clubs based on interests, example, a book club in place with a specific theme. This helps people come together, get familiar and interact with each other beyond work.
  • Maintaining enthusiasm: Companies do this frequently through a regularly scheduled happy hour or off-site visits.
  • Creating a conducive environment for innovation: Calling out someone for taking a risk or having a special award assigned for a failed decision could be one such ritual.
  • Setting the right tone for meetings: I have seen an example of this at a major multinational bank. Every session starts with answering a few questions on how each individual is feeling and what they want from the meeting.

Intensity vs frequency
You can choose the intensity and the frequency of the ritual based on your need. A team that wants to take advantage of a yearly meeting at a beautiful destination could create a high-intensity low frequency routine as opposed to a daily ten minute stand up meeting as in agile.

Individual vs group rituals
Rituals can be used to achieve certain expected behaviors both in individuals and teams. As part of executive coaching, in the last part of a session sometimes I may invite the client to think of a ritual that they would want to commit to which will help them in achieving their goal.

There are no right or wrong rituals. They are very unique to all the members of the group and must be derived collectively. They have to work for the individuals and the group together. Rituals can have a positive and powerful impact on the productivity and performance of the team if designed effectively.

The author is Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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