We all need ritual.
It feeds a human hunger for belonging. It elevates the mundane to a higher level of meaning. And when it happens at regular intervals, it can provide a feeling of predictability in a workweek or work climate that at times feels unpredictable.
Here in Israel, we are just coming off of the “National Holidays”; Yom Ha-Zikaron (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers) and Yom Ha-Atzmaut (Independence Day). I am always struck by how the national rituals like a two-minute siren and moment of silence to remember fallen soldiers, the ritual of playing melancholy music on the radio, and the ritual of the BBQ to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day can create the mood and direct the hearts and minds of a country’s citizens.
The rituals that mark time as significant, that galvanize groups and direct them toward collective action is just as helpful in our work lives.
In their book Rituals at Work. 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture that Can Adapt to Change, Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan write about 5 types of rituals that can help us all at work:
1. Change + Transition: These are the kinds of rituals that can help workers adapt to new circumstances and upheavals. These can include rituals of appreciation in advance of a big change, and rituals of leave-taking for team members who are ending their tenure.
2. Creativity + Innovation: These rituals spark better ideas and invite a vision for change. They can be rituals designed to kick off creative/out-of-the-box thinking at brainstorming sessions.
3. Community: These rituals include bringing people together and giving them a sense of shared purpose. They may include group outings, or special ‘company customs’, like weekly communal lunches or dress-down Thursdays.
4. Conflict + Resilience: These kinds of rituals can help people deal with prickly dynamics and challenges in the workplace. For example, setting (and then writing) an intention like, “we are going to assume everyone’s best intentions” at the start of a weekly meeting in which personality clashes usually surface can help set an expectation for the culture of the meeting you have in mind.
5. Performance + Flow: This helps people get focused and feel confident and productive.
One ritual that fits into the fifth category is one that I learned from Amy Cuddy in her Ted Talk entitled, “Your body language may change who you are”. It includes assuming the victory pose before giving a big talk when you need to feel energized. Instead of cowering over my notes, the simple pose enables my blood to start flowing and my mind to sharpen.
When created with intention, done regularly, and shared with your teams, a symbolic ritual act can help improve your performance, your teams’ cohesion, and your overall work culture.
Blessings for the journey,