Rituals - how can they help leaders

14 May 2020

Rituals – how can they help leaders

The pandemic took so much from us. It's difficult to mention it all. It blurred borders between work, home, and school. Took away office meetings, private space, commuting, dining in the city, family gatherings, visits at hair saloons, sitting in the cafe. Shut down gyms, pools, interrupted our shopping. It killed traveling, strolling, our plans. It even changed funerals. This pandemic affected every single aspect of our life and death.

Transitional period – switching to new rituals

During the pandemic the world stopped – entirely and for good. Getting into a new habit or routine takes about 8 to 12 weeks. Every day we perform around 350 new, repeatable, and routine behaviors. It is estimated that over 40% of new habits are going to change during the pandemic. We are entering the great uncertainty, but one thing is sure – we need new rituals more than ever, to tame the unknown.

Rituals in remote work – advice for a leader

The first days of remote work were a challenge for everyone – especially the leader. Work moved to the digital space and it made it harder to read emotions we can only detect during a face to face meeting – body language, tone of voice, feelings. What is the point of rituals? They carry meaning and give chaos a sense. Rituals help us handle the loss and gain something new. We need them because our brain craves order. Treat rituals as support, which during this online work, will build a structure and create safe relations. But remember – don't try too hard and at all costs. Most likely your meetings, coworkers, and life itself will suggest symbolic, bonding behaviors.

  • beginning and end – every routine has its' clear border – they start and then end. Work on a system in which your meetings will begin and end in a clear-cut way. It can be a recurring question for everybody, or a sound, song, or tune initializing every gathering. Teams working
  • remotely found many ways to mark beginning – e.g. virtual coffee with mugs presentation or daily emotional check-up, which allows us to help and support those, who feel down.
  • physical artifact – rituals may refer to this what's symbolic and immaterial, but gestures themselves are manifested by substantial items and behaviors. It's especially important when you work remotely. It's good for the group to see and experience that, what is material. Think about merch (company t-shirt), gadget symbolizing your brand, organize sing-along – this idea will come to you naturally.
    create a space for your ritual – it can be a background behind your screen, the room around your laptop or desk – ritual requires space to manifest itself
  • virtual empathy – try to fill your rituals with empathy, which substitutes for a lack of physical contact
    open yourself for new – something went away, but there is a new thing instead – even if it's still impossible to name, identify or appreciate it

How to check if a certain ritual is, in fact, a ritual? Omit it on purpose during your next meeting – see how your team will react. Will they mention it? Ask to bring it back? If so – you have your joint ritual.


Grzegorz Kosson

Grzegorz Kosson

Together with leaders and teams co-creates an organizational culture based on a sense of psychological safety, thanks to which teams work with joy, purpose and sense of pride.He helps organizations, owners and management boards to quickly discover the identity, essence and DNA of the organization and the brand, thanks to his authors’ patented “Brand Impulse®” method. A writer...

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