Team Habits, Rituals and Ceremonies

Posted by Kristin Arnold on March 1, 2023

Team Habits Rituals and Ceremonies

When you watch a high-performing team in action, you realize that they have some habits, rituals, and ceremonies that support the team’s work.

So what’s the difference?  I defined habits in an earlier blog post as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary,” and a ritual as “a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.  A ritual is a custom or tradition that defines who they are as a team, reinforces positive team behaviors, and contributes to the team’s culture and philosophy.”  I’ve also come to realize that there is another category – I’ll call it “ceremonies” that extend beyond the team level and are performed at the organizational level.

Many of these habits, rituals, and/or ceremonies are created in the moment, by the team leader or a team member.  When they go over so well, the team wants to do it again….and again until it becomes second nature!

Andy Duke Group Director of Creative Designs at  Stickyeyes says,

“A successful ritual needs to be something out of the ordinary, something that lifts people out of the day-to-day aspects of their job and puts them in a different mindset.”

Here are some examples that I have seen effective teams establish to create a certain purpose and put them in a different mindset:

  • Solidify relationships – take the seriousness out of work and focus on coming together because you want to and getting to know each other beyond the daily tasks unlocks creative power.
    • Meetings – “Check ins/outs,” icebreakers, Attitude of Gratitude, breathing exercise, company salute/special high five, 5 min Monday morning stand-up meeting/team huddle.
    • Team time – a set time in the day to gather and chit-chat
    • Walk a Mile – go for walking meetings vs. standing meetings!
    • Desk Swap! – Once a quarter, everyone sits in someone else’ digs for a week
    • Coffee Dates – Random coffee dates where everyone in the company gets assigned a random person to go have coffee with on Wednesday to chat and get to know each other
    • Scheduled Events – Weekly happy hours, morning huddles, team building activities, escape rooms, trivia nights, weekly trips to a local coffee shop, movie night, Wonderful Wednesdays, Fabulous Fridays
    • Non-Holidays –  Celebrate non-traditional holidays – or invent your own!
    • Food – Break bread with your brethren and bond over food – breakfast, lunch, cooking together, free snacks, and coffee in the break room. Discuss one thing you’re excited about and one thing you’re worried about.
    • Storytime –  Have an annual story night where you retell the history of the team or company and let people tell their favorite stories, too.
  • Recognize/Navigate Transitions
    • New hires – Welcome them in a special way: assign a buddy to take out to lunch, decorate their workspace, hold a special huddle to welcome them
    • An employee starts a new position
    • Anniversaries – 5 years, 10 years, etc.
    • Birthdays/anniversaries – A cake or quirky dessert, decorate their cubicle or door, give them something funny to wear (a hat, shirt or necklace), sing a song, bring a cake
    • Retirement
    • Layoff/firing
  • Promoting/Gaining New Skills and Knowledge
    • Regular debriefs, lessons learned, lunch & learns, and intensive training programs done together
    • Micro-learning sessions and discussions after everyone has done the training
    • Performance reviews, coaching activities
    • Setting monthly or quarterly goals
  • Celebrate Success when the team has achieved something together
    • Project completion – gift cards, pizzas, certificates of appreciation, t-shirts, drinks, cake, email announcement with a picture, bell in office, shoot a gong with a nerf gun, statue, create a trophy or symbol/prop to award for something and then award it to someone else the next month
    • Customer comments – send an email, best comment cake
  • Develop/Enhance Creativity
    • “Daily Drawing” – start the team meeting with a drawing – any kind at all as long as the pen is moving across the page!
    • The Weekly Question to ponder/respond to
    • “Round Table” – tee up a non-work topic to discuss
    • Book club to discuss a chapter in a book each week

The key to any of these activities is that the team habits, rituals, and ceremonies are done together as a team.


Related Articles

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Rituals Help Establish a Sense of Unity Within Teams

Techniques to Build an Extraordinarily Cohesive Team

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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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