When you watch sports teams behind the scenes, they always have a ritual before starting every game. Most of them put their hands together in the middle as they stand in a circle and then yell out the team name in unison.
These rituals can mean so many things. But they’re not just exclusive to sports teams. Team rituals can also foster a healthy and vibrant work culture.
While team meetings and projects play a crucial role, the often-overlooked rituals can be the secret sauce to building a resilient and connected team. In this article, we'll explore the art of crafting meaningful team rituals and learn how they can be the catalyst for a healthier, more engaged work environment.
What are Team Rituals?
Team rituals are intentional and symbolic activities that teams perform together regularly. These activities go beyond the functional aspects of work. They often carry emotional significance and contribute to a shared identity among team members.
Team rituals could be anything from having morning huddles where everyone shares something about a chosen topic to having a monthly team dinner to celebrate achievements and birthdays.
While routines are also repetitive in nature, they should not be mistaken for rituals.
Routines are habitual and often mundane activities that individuals or teams perform as part of their daily work. While essential for maintaining structure and ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently, they are also more focused on work's operational and procedural aspects and do not carry emotional weight.
Some examples of routines are daily stand-up meetings and weekly progress reviews.
What are the Benefits of Having Team Rituals?
Experts at Stanford University found that strongly bonded teams are 50% more productive. This gives you all the more reasons to start coming up with team rituals.
Here are some of the biggest benefits that team rituals can have on your team:
Strengthening Team Bonding
Team rituals foster a sense of unity and camaraderie among team members. When team members participate in shared activities and experiences outside of regular work tasks, they build stronger interpersonal connections. This strengthened bond contributes to a more collaborative and supportive work environment.
Enhancing Team Morale
Rituals often involve celebrations, acknowledgments, and positive interactions, creating a more positive and uplifting atmosphere within the team. Recognizing achievements, milestones, and individual contributions during rituals can significantly boost team morale and motivation.
Building a Positive Work Culture
Team rituals play a crucial role in shaping the overall work culture. When rituals align with positive values and promote a supportive atmosphere, they create a healthy and thriving work culture. This can attract and retain talented employees who appreciate the positive environment.
Enhancing Communication and Collaboration
Team rituals provide informal settings for team members to interact outside the constraints of formal work tasks. This can lead to improved communication as team members become more comfortable expressing ideas and concerns. The enhanced connections forged during rituals often translate into better collaboration and teamwork during work-related projects.
Building Resilience and Team Cohesion
Rituals create a sense of belonging within the team, fostering resilience in the face of challenges. When team members feel a strong connection and shared purpose, they are more likely to support each other during difficult times. This cohesion contributes to a resilient team that can effectively adapt to changes and overcome obstacles.
How Can You Create Your Own Team Ritual?
Remember that one thing that sets team rituals apart from routines is the emotional connection. That’s why you can’t simply devise a random action or practice. Your team ritual has to be intentional and should be something that will impact team members.
Here are four steps you can follow in coming up with your team rituals:
1. Find a situation that needs improvement.
When we say “needs improvement,” think of something that impacts team morale. Are there situations that commonly happen that bring the team down?
You can find out what scenarios team members dread by asking them through a survey or a discussion, depending on what you think your team will be comfortable with.
You can also find out through observation. Are there instances where you see team members becoming overly tense? Are there scenarios that almost always end up in arguments or conflict?
These could be anything from having system glitches to releasing new products. You could start with high-stress situations for the team and then move from there.
2. Assess how and why the situation impacts team morale.
Let’s say you notice team morale normally goes down a week or two before you launch a new product. This is probably due to the stress of trying to meet the deadline.
For system glitches, it’s possible that some team members feel guilty that they let an error happen. Some might also be looking for someone to blame.
Looking for these reasons will help you figure out what emotions to address and what rituals would match your needs. For example, think of a stress reliever once a week before launching a new product. Some might see it as a waste of time, knowing that deadlines are coming up, but a few minutes used to get everyone’s spirits up could be considered productive, too.
For errors, issues, and similar cases, it would be good to devise a ritual that reminds everyone that they’re a team that could solve anything together.
3. Come up with a ritual.
Once you have a list of issues to address and understand the emotions behind them, it’s time to come up with a ritual.
Team rituals fall under three kinds – sacrificial, synchronized, or coordinated.
Sacrificial rituals mean giving something up for the sake of the team. For example, team members could sacrifice their individuality to make the team feel united by wearing the same thing on Mondays or shaving their heads each time a glitch happens (even if it’s just one team member’s fault).
Team chants that are recited every time a customer commendation comes in is a form of synchronized ritual. It’s something that the entire team does in unison based on a trigger or scenario.
Coordinated rituals are also done by the entire group but are more consistent. Having a team dinner every 1st Saturday of the month can fall under this category. The same thing can be said about starting Monday huddles with every team member sharing what they did over the weekend.
Team rituals can fall under multiple categories, too. For example, shaving off the heads of team members when an error is made can be considered both a sacrificial and a synchronized ritual.
4. Apply and tweak as needed.
Once you’ve devised a new ritual, let everyone know about it and start doing it as a team. You can add rituals as needed; there isn’t really any limit on how many rituals you can have.
Observe how engaged team members will be. Look at how effective they are, too. Be flexible enough to tweak the ritual once you notice it’s not working as expected.
It would be a good idea to get your team’s input on how these rituals work for them. After all, the team's success relies on each individual’s effort and engagement.
10 Examples of Simple But Effective Team Rituals
Now that we’ve gone through the steps in creating effective team rituals, let’s look at a few examples. Teams worldwide use these rituals (or a few variations) to help make better connections among team members.
1. Coffee Maker Questions: Twice a week, the Coffee Maker feature from the virtual coffee chat platform CoffeePals sends questions like “What’s the best book you’ve ever read?” or “What’s your dream vacation?” to your team channels. It’s the perfect icebreaker during a busy workday and starts the most interesting conversations.
2. Must Get Done: Monday huddles become more insightful when each team member shares the one thing they need to accomplish throughout the week. This promotes accountability and allows other team members to check each other’s progress.
3. Monthly Offsite Meetings: While boardrooms might be convenient for meetings, they also make meetings somber and overly serious. Meeting at a nearby coffee shop or a restaurant could be an excellent way to take a breather from the usual work gatherings. This meeting would be a great way to discuss achievements and milestones if done at the end of the month or a venue for a start-of-the-month pep talk.
4. Value of the Week: Pick one value the team wants to be more intentional with. Announce it at the start of the week. Then, have everyone share how they saw their teammates display that value during the end-of-week huddle.
5. Celebratory Bell: Place a bell in the middle of the work area and ring it whenever something good happens. It could be a sale closed, a target hit, or a task done. You can also use a cymbal or a gong instead of a bell.
6. High-Five Tunnel: Aside from ringing a celebratory bell, the team could also form a high-five tunnel each time the team or a team member celebrates an achievement.
7. Sponsor for the Day: You can also create rituals for onboarding new team members. Assign a different team member to assist the newbie each day until the newbie has been partnered up with everyone from the team. The sponsor will show the new team member around and talk about routines, tasks, and other important things they need to know.
8. Morning GIF: Have every team member check into the team channel or group chat by sending a GIF. It could be something hilarious or something motivational. These GIFs are perfect for setting the right tone before work starts.
9. #Gratitude Channel: Create a group chat or team channel where everyone posts things they are thankful for daily. Posts could be about work achievements, team milestones, or good deeds one team member did for the others.
10. Virtual Coffee Chats: Similar to the water cooler chats team members usually have, virtual coffee chats create that casual space where people can just swap stories and talk about things that are not work-related.
CoffeePals is a great platform that you can use for different team rituals. Aside from the Coffee Maker questions and regular coffee chats, the platform’s Coffee Lottery feature also allows you to implement a Meet the CEO program, where people can chat with key people in the organization once a month.