(4-minute read, choose the sections that are best for you)

Before we begin, here are definitions to keep in mind.

Routines…. repeated scheduled activities.

Rituals…. actions or behaviors that give purpose to an activity.

The big picture first; continued economic uncertainty, elevated interest rates, changing employer flexibilities/in-office protocols and the peculiar reality of layoffs coupled with low unemployment. The trickle-down effect is that many of us feel insecure in our relationship with work. We’re seeking stability, and that can be elusive.

We all know that stability comes from strong leadership, fair compensation, room to grow, and an environment where people feel valued. When these are present, high employee retention, job satisfaction and solid business performance follow.

So, if we know what works, why do we continually hear statements like this?

“Employee job satisfaction and engagement factors are key ingredients of employee retention programs. The importance of addressing these factors is obvious, but actually doing so takes time and these tasks are often left for another day.” (Society of Human Resource Managers)

Moving engagement and job satisfaction-enhancing tasks to another day leaves us with routines.

Left unchecked, routines and routinized activities discourage engagement and crush motivation.

If we’re seeking job satisfaction and stability, and the workplaces we want, each of us is responsible for stepping up and taking a hard look at daily routines.

Whether you’re a manager, team member or job seeker, you can help create the work environment you want by asking different questions and introducing new rituals that connect purpose into daily routines. There is no reason why new questions, rituals and routines cannot happily co-exist; they just often don’t.

Now, let’s blend routines (schedule) and rituals (purpose) for 1) team activities, 2) managing teams, 3) job seeking and 4) working remotely.


Start with Better Team Meetings

Routine team meetings built to prioritize productivity and efficiency are okay but often need to include opportunities for engagement.  

Many routine weekly team meetings follow a familiar pattern:

  • Led by the same person
  • Organized around a highly structured agenda
  • Focused on report-outs by groups or individuals

Is information transferred? Yes.
At the end of the meeting, are there any questions?
Only one – how fast can we get out of here?

To motivate people, add new rituals to the meeting routine. For example;

  • Move work-progress information to project management platforms
  • Establish rotating meeting leaders to empower everyone on the team to take on a leadership role, regardless of title
  • Set a one-question agenda. “What are you stuck on?” for group discussion
  • Allow the teams to self-organize to solve problems
  • Task team leads with supervising the follow-up collaborations and workflow


Managers Prioritizing Purpose

A leader’s role is to manage personalities and workflow. It’s much more challenging than implementing tasks but highly rewarding.

To create an environment where your team feels valued and heard, audit your existing routines and see where you can insert new rituals that lend purpose to the activities.

For example,

  • What is the purpose of the activity?
    Social, business, recognition, ideation
  • What are we solving for?
    Increased performance, collaboration, camaraderie, something else?
  • What’s the ideal format for maximum return?
    In-person, conference room, walk and talk, Zoom, lunch meeting
  • Who should lead the meeting?
    As a manager, you don’t need to, nor should you, lead every meeting. Delegating gives insight into who would benefit from extra support to succeed in a leadership role.
  • Who else should join?
    Remember the value of new input for generating ideas or solving problems. Including others also helps to minimize siloes.

Next, look hard at how you interact at team meetings, during 1-1’s and in daily conversations.

For example;

  • Do you read the room to assess your audience’s level of engagement?
  • Where do you insert questions that invite conversation and ideas?
  • Where can you change an old routine to add a new ritual, so the person feels valued?
  • Can you talk less and listen more?
  • Is every scheduled meeting necessary? If not, abandon what’s not needed.


New Questions for Jobseekers

Jobseekers also fall prey to routine, asking the same questions in every interview. Minor changes to typical interview questions will help you understand how an organization uses rituals to motivate and engage a team. For example;

From: Describe a typical day
To: How does the team come up with new ideas?

From: What’s the reporting structure
To: How is innovation rewarded and acknowledged?

From: How is success measured?
To: Can you offer an example of a business challenge and the process used to solve that challenge?

From: What professional development opportunities are offered?
To: What is in place for colleagues to learn from each other?

From: How does the team collaborate?
To: What are you stuck on right now? How does the team organize around challenges?


Remote Workers: Incorporating Rituals

Remote workers rely heavily on routine and tech to measure productivity and feel connected. Being alone makes it easy to fall into a check-the-box mindset to feel accomplished at the end of the day.

If you are managing or working on a remote team, scan your daily activities and categorize them as routine or ritual. Here are some questions.

  • Where are the ideas being generated?
  • How many Zoom calls are focused only on report-outs?
  • How are you measuring yourself or being measured on productivity?
  • Who are your go-to people when you have issues to solve? Can you expand the circle?
  • Is there any white space in your day to think? Is that practice encouraged?
  • Do you have a mentor or accountability partner?

If you discover that your day is primarily made up of one routine after another, re-energize your work or team by looking for places to insert new rituals that enrich your career and enhance your connection with the purpose or mission of the organization.

Whether you are a manager, team member or job seeker, we can all actively build or look for an environment that prioritizes job satisfaction and engagement by blending new rituals into existing routines.


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