Human communities have utilized social rituals for centuries. We humans are inspired by workplace events that help define how our work is meaningful – to our clients, to our peers, to ourselves, even to our stakeholders.

However, few senior leaders leverage corporate rituals as an intentional strategy to define and reinforce a company’s desired culture. This week’s post looks at how to do just that.

Typical Rituals

We define corporate rituals as events which communicate and reinforce desired performance and values. Common rituals in workplaces across the globe include:

  • All-company meetings
  • Department celebrations
  • Voicemails/videos/memos from senior leaders
  • Service award events
  • Customer summit events

These events typically vary in how effective they are at reinforcing your desired culture. Intentional efforts can ensure that all corporate rituals create a common bond, inspire commitment and innovation, and build the “finely woven cloth” of an effective culture. Humans need a source of workplace connectedness or they lose focus, passion, and willingness.

Organizations are Human Systems

Organizations are made up of humans who perform needed roles to deliver products and services that meet (or exceed) customer’s requirements. Therefore, all organizations are human systems. Just as your automobile needs the engine tuned and oiled, the tires inflated properly, the brakes adjusted regularly, etc., the human systems in your organization need proactive tending to maintain peak performance and inspired commitment.

Let’s examine a few well-proven approaches in two strategic categories – communication and celebration.

Communication Rituals

Communication rituals focus on educating participants about your business strategy, market environments, opportunities, company performance, insights about customers, new solutions in process, etc. Powerful communication rituals address these primary outcomes while building human connectedness. Two key rituals used at Blanchard can enhance communication efforts:

  • Regular Information Sharing – At Blanchard, our chief spiritual officer (yes, that is his real title) Dr. Ken Blanchard, leaves every employee a voicemail message every business day of the year. (OK, not every day – when he travels internationally he asks select staff to leave the morning message in his stead!) Ken’s messages cover a variety of topics of importance to Blanchard associates, including book projects coming to fruition, client project updates, board of directors meeting debriefs, milestones reached by teams and individual associates, and “what has come clear” to Ken about leading others. These are inspirational messages even if Ken is pointing out areas of improvement!
  • All Company Meetings – Blanchard holds ACMs each quarter, led by key leadership (including Blanchard family members). For associates on campus in Escondido, CA, they are live, face-to-face meetings; the meetings are broadcast (video/audio) for field based associates around the globe. Blanchard is a very relationship-driven organization; these meetings are major connection events for Blanchard associates.
    The agenda includes a report on finances (how we stand to budget expectations), delivery days (classroom, virtual, blended), product development updates (always cool projects in the works at Blanchard), and service awards (which gets into celebration a bit). Associates educated about where the business stands are able to make decisions, in the moment, that move the business forward.

Celebration Rituals

As noted above, sometimes communication rituals include celebration elements, which is a great thing. Celebration rituals are not exclusively the responsibility of “all company” events – these rituals are very powerfully utilized by work teams, departments, and functions. Blanchard’s celebration rituals include:

  • Birthdays
  • Project completion
  • Small wins (along the path to project completion)
  • “Open Forum” lunches, Q&As on how things could be done better on the team

These corporate rituals can not only shift your organization towards your desired culture but they are critical pieces in maintaining your desired culture. Be intentional with rituals you invest in.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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