Over time teams develop rituals. They belong to the events or moments team members will recognize as a signal that tells them that they all belong to the same team. Just like individuals who have their habits, teams have rituals.
When a ritual is used, the individuals in the team recognize the way it happens and can follow it. It helps individuals to synchronize themselves with one another and establish a first connection. As they recognize the way things unfold people develop a sense of security and develop a readiness to intensify the connection.
Rituals don’t need to be long or complicated. One of the simplest and most widely recognized rituals is to say hello. How it is done will depend on the culture and the way people relate to one another.
When leaders want to create a sense of belonging and contribute to developing the team’s culture, rituals play a fundamental role. They can set the tone as well as describe the attitude expected in the team.
But it doesn’t happen by writing a memo.
It is long-term work that requires constant attention. It is the same as habits individuals seek to develop, when starting them, they need to be done with a discipline of regularly coming back to them. When they start to settle there is a need to be disciplined about the way they are executed to ensure that they have the impact desired. And when they are quite well known, the discipline needed is one of practice, which is a slow transition that has to start to happen without the leader’s presence. It also means that the individuals executing them experience the impact of the ritual and how it contributes to the team’s life. It’s only then, that rituals become so ingrained that people execute them and benefit from them without really noticing that they are rituals.
That’s the moment when teams find it easy to know that there is a shared culture and a sense of belonging in the team. It’s also the moment in which they need to review what they are doing, they need to make sure that what they are doing still serves them. Here again, there is the risk that things are being done out of habit but without attention or understanding of what these things are for. Formalism grows out of that state. And when it does, teams start to fall apart.