Pledge like a Toastmasters’ Club – Benefit of rituals in the workplace

cooperation-gordon johnson


Wikipedia explains “ritual thus: “A ritual ‘is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence’. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized but not defined by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism, and performance.”

In answering the question “What is the purpose of doing rituals?” on Quora, Marcus Ford had this to say:

“Rituals allow humans to escape from the normal routine of life and experience the joy of belonging and fraternity. Rituals are the tools that humans use to maintain and reaffirm culture when it would otherwise be destroyed by the inevitable disorder and conflict that all societies have. “

In the HBR article How Ritual Delivers Performance, Paolo Guenzi talks about four different ways in which rituals help team performance.

It creates a shared identity. 

It brings team members’ external networks into the family.

It stimulates the emotions and reduces anxiety.

It reinforces desired behaviors.

Workplace rituals take many different forms. In the very early days of Retail Solutions, whenever we made a sale our COO would strike a suspended gong which was hung in the middle of the office to announce the details. Later when the company grew, we did it more on a periodic basis, on whatever sales we had made since the last one. It announced to the entire company we were growing, and every one of those newly acquired customer matters! Many companies have all-hands meetings on a periodic basis in order to have an effective, transparent and clear communication. Summer picnics and winter holiday parties are rituals to improve camaraderie among colleagues. Teams welcome a new member by taking her out to lunch.

One ritual that really got me thinking is the induction ceremony of Toastmasters’ clubs in welcoming a new member.  The new member makes a promise to the club, among other things, “to attend club meetings regularly, to prepare all of my projects to the best of my ability, basing them on the Toastmasters education program, to prepare for and fulfill meeting assignments, to provide fellow members with helpful, constructive evaluations and help the club maintain the positive, friendly environment necessary for all members to learn and grow”.

The club, in turn, executes a pledge to support the new member. A typical pledge would have the members of Toastmasters Club promise

  • to support you in your quest for self- development
  • to provide you with positive, helpful evaluations
  • to maintain a friendly, supportive atmosphere
  • to give you opportunities to help others and
  • to make your Toastmasters membership a rewarding and fulfilling experience

Many businesses have orientation for the newly hired.  They are taken around the office and introduced to those who will work with them. They meet with HR and their managers. What if, in addition, the core team of the new employee executes a pledge similar to the Toastmasters’ pledge to the incoming member?

Workplaces are stressful and full of conflicts. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a ritual you can recall and know that your teammates have your back?

This post also appeared in LinkedIn on May 16, 2017

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