Why do we need rituals in our teams?
There are some occurrences in life that give you goosebumps as you experience them. Something similar happened to me when I came across this post by a Senior Army Officer on Twitter. It was the regimental song of the Assam Regiment of the Indian Army. Have you heard of the ‘Badluram ka Badan’ song? If you haven’t, it’s at the end of this article. Keep reading to find the link.
The song was written in the honor of Rifleman Badluram, a soldier of the Assam Regiment of the British Indian Army. He died of a gunshot wound during World War II. This is not an exception though. In the Army, every Regiment has a regiment song and many more rituals that they have been practicing for many years and they have almost become like a way of life for them.
Another more popular and visible example of a team ritual is the huddle which the Indian Cricket team gets into before taking the field in every single match. The entire ritual doesn’t last for more than a couple of minutes and I am pretty sure that no great strategy gets discussed in those 90–120 seconds. However, it does get followed without fail and you can see that it just comes naturally to all the players before they go out and play together as one unit.
Look around and observe — any great team or an organization has numerous examples of such inexplicable rituals which they practise to build in camaraderie and inspire passion.
All I am trying to say is that nothing else binds people in one unit than a shared emotion. Like when we are hungry, when we are feeling low, or when we just want to have a nice time! We are connected by emotions and emotions are reflected by actions.
Rituals are a mirror to our emotions, as they let our feelings come through in the most genuine format.
Rituals are the most powerful way to bring people together, to build relationships that last beyond lifetimes. Any institution, whether it’s a family or an organization, where people exist together, needs rituals. All great teams consciously devise rituals.
Why, you ask. The reason is simple. There is a specific purpose that everyone is working towards in an organization. However, no two individuals have the same role in achieving that purpose/goal. There are different roles with different job descriptions and structural hierarchy. So, how do you make sure that people connect beyond the scope of their roles, that they connect towards the purpose.
That’s where rituals come in.
Remember that the outcome is always greater than the sum of the parts. Rituals make the parts come together to create a whole.
I heard this quote by Phil Jackson, and it hit home.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
It is important that every single person in a team works to their level best for a team to succeed. And there are different ways to build excitement and inspire action in a team. Sharing a common purpose, rewarding, or recognizing an individual, and many others.
But even beyond that there must be a way that connects people leading different lives. That’s what I am talking about.
Imagine a family without any get-togethers or dinner plans, imagine a team where you haven’t even eaten together with people that you work with, now imagine how connected you feel to those people.
Here are some of the rituals, which i have been part of, in my previous organizations -
The Wall of Fame at Beroe
This one is a great example of building togetherness by celebrating one another’s success in a team. At Beroe, we used the Wall of Fame to recognize our colleagues’ work. As part of this ritual, the entire organization of 300+ team members would gather around a wall, designated and decorated as the Wall of Fame, in the center of our office, to recognize team members who had gone above and beyond the call of their duty.
The manager of the team member would read out a citation for the concerned team member, which was followed by a mini-snacks party on the floor itself. We would put up the name of the person on the Wall of Fame for next one month.
The ‘Pizza Party’ to Celebrate A New Client
I remember at one of my previous organizations,, we would celebrate the addition of a new client with a Pizza Party. That soon became a ritual, so much so that we didn’t have to tell people that a new client was added to the portfolio, we just called it Pizza Party Day and people would know. It’s when everyone would gather that we would divulge more details about the client. It didn’t matter which role or which designation you bore, if you are a member of the company, you are as much a member of the Pizza Party ritual as the founder of the company.
The ‘Machate Raho’ at Snapdeal
In another instance, at Snapdeal, we used to have Diwali Sale Day and in those days it used to be a big deal. We had come up with Machate Raho Awards where every floor had a huge bell at the entrance. The whole building had around 15–16 floors. And everytime, someone had done a good job, everyone would come on the floor where that individual worked, buzz the bell and celebrate their achievement. It was a huge success. Most importantly, it brought people together in celebration of success. It was not about one person; it was about coming together for something more than a single achievement.
Rituals are like that. They build more than they carry. They become more than they hold. They create more than they express.
About the song that I mentioned in the beginning, created in the honor of a Rifleman, the truth is that that man died many years ago. We don’t even know him. People clapping and grooving and stomping their feet on that song have never met him or heard from him. But they are inspired with every beat of that song. Why? Because it inspires emotion of trust and love and passion amongst them. The practice brings them together for the same cause. And that’s what makes all of it worth it.
Now that we have successfully established why we must have rituals in our teams, the question is how to create rituals.
Here are my quick tips –
- Don’t make them cumbersome or complicated. If it takes a lot of energy to understand and apply it, it’s not a ritual. People need to enjoy it, not feel obligated to practise it.
- Once a ritual is established, make sure to communicate it clearly to everyone. That’s the thing, if even one person doesn’t know about a ritual, it’s not a ritual. Make sure that everyone is aware of it and everyone knows what has to be done.
- Be ruthlessly consistent in practising rituals till the time that it becomes a way of life.
Rituals make teams believe that there is no one greater than the whole institution or the purpose for which the institution stands. Rituals bring everyone at par with one another. Rituals make people believe that they are here for something bigger than themselves.
Build a ritual to share emotions with teams. It’s totally worth it!
P.S. — Here is the video link of Badluram ka Badan song. Watch it, you’ll love it :)
Full story – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badluram_ka_Badan