Rituals Help Establish a Sense of Unity Within Teams

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 7, 2010

Extraordinary teams typically have a number of customs, traditions, or “rituals” that define who they are as a team, reinforce positive team behaviors, and contribute to the team’s culture and philosophy.  Rituals often celebrate exceptional contributions, additions, promotions and retirements from the team, or the accomplishment of significant team milestones.

Traditions include casual Fridays, potluck lunches, pizza parties, family picnics, birthday and holiday celebrations, team outings, and other activities that the team expects on a regular basis.  One of my favorites is “tea time” at 3 pm, every day.  For 10 or 15 minutes, we grab a cup of tea, coffee or soda and gather together to share what’s going on with us at work, home, or leisure.  When starting my consulting practice, I recognized the importance of  our team “connecting” each day–regardless of what’s going on in the office–because we are often moving in a million different directions.  Tea(m) time allows us to focus on the people side of teams, not just the great work.

At WorldNow, Mark Zagorski started a monthly ritual to recognize individuals for the great work that they do.  Every month someone is presented with The Team Drill, a clunky old tool that he picked up at a garage sale.  The monthly winner is expected to perform a few simple tasks:  Personalize the drill in some way and devise a new rule for how to care for it.  One team member added a Bart Simpson trigger.  Another made the drill wireless by adding an antenna.  At the end of the monthly staff meeting, the current winner passes the drill to next star.  Mark observes,  “Okay, it’s just a goofy $2 purchase.  But the dented old drill captures our unofficial mantra of  ‘drilling down to solve problems.’  You can implement culture initiatives through new-hire training sessions, but when you create a company icon–no matter how silly–you’re carrying on the conversation from one generation of the company to the next.”

In his book, How to Become an Employer of Choice, Roger Herman shares the “nice catch” ritual at Modern International Graphics for those who spot a problem with a customer’s printing job.  When someone catches a mistake and calls it to the team’s attention, the ritual begins.  First, over the public address system comes the honk of a bicycle horn.  Then the team parades through the plant with balloons and kazoos until they reach the workstation of the problem-finder and presents them with Ohio Lottery tickets.  The tickets could be big winners–or not–but it’s fun getting the recognition and a chance at some big money.

Question:  What ritual are you known for?

To book Kristin to speak or view her products go to www.ExtraordinaryTeam.com

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