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Rituals support the culture

Embark on a performance journey

  • 26 July 2018
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Guest post by Kartik Shah

Have you ever noticed how pilgrims mentally, spiritually and/or physically prepare themselves for a pilgrimage by engaging in some customary rituals? For example, the Muslims shave their heads, cut their nails and don white robes before going for the hajj. Similarly, the Hindus, the Buddhists and the Jains observe penance and abstain from sexual activity to purify the soul.&

I’d like to think that leaders and their followers who embark on a performance journey each year are pilgrims too. Their journey towards fulfilling the organization’s vision and mission is no less sacred. And therefore ‘corporate rituals’ can help ‘corporate pilgrims’ on their sacred ‘performance pilgrimage’. In this article I will discuss two rituals that we follow in my team.

Ringing the Bell

I lead a team of Leadership and Development consultants at a reputed, global training and consulting organization. Whenever anybody in my team achieves their goals or does something for the organization or upholds an organizational value or exceeds customer expectations, I ring a bell for that team member on our WhatsApp group and later document my appreciation in an email, usually with HR and/or my boss in copy. The idea is to lavishly praise the team member’s effort. I was surprised by the enthusiastic adoption of this ritual by many of my team members. They no longer wait for me to ring a bell. They ring a bell for each other promptly. This has created a positive and encouraging atmosphere which is essential for team engagement. In fact, in one of our review meetings last month, one person even commented that they thought ‘ringing a bell’ ritual has been especially motivating. 

Invitation to the Pity Party

I picked up the concept of pity partying while reading an article in the Harvard Business Review and thought of trying it with my team. A pity party is basically a safe space for team members to voice any negative emotions related to work, the workplace or the manager and collectively find solutions to genuine problems or concerns. I’ve assured my team there are no consequences of pouring their heart out. We do not fire messengers. It is just a platform meant for them to unburden and feel lighter. Nobody is allowed to judge the person who’s pity partying and we only listen to understand - not to respond or counsel. 

At a recent pity party I got feedback that sometimes I micromanage and send too many emails. Since then I’ve worked on that feedback and kept my word of offering more autonomy and writing fewer follow-up emails. I think the ritualized space to complain and vent has helped my team let go of negativity and speak up on issues they would otherwise hesitate to be radically candid about.

  • What rituals do you observe in your team or organization to help people recharge and/or unburden on their performance pilgrimage? 
  • How does this contribute to building a positive culture? Feel free to share your wisdom in the comments section below.

Kartik Shah is a certified learning & organizational development professional working at a global training and consulting company in India. 

Would you like to learn more positive rituals to develop a positive culture? Check out the online Positive Culture Academy. Subscribe to the Academy’s mailing list or enroll right away!

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