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Rituals and Routines for Leaders, Coaches, Teachers, and Parents

habits leadership rituals routines Jan 06, 2022

This is the final post of a three-part series on Rituals and how they can help you achieve optimal performance.  Part one addresses the relationship between habits, routines, and rituals and how they can improve your performance.  Part two discusses the various types of rituals and how you can incorporate them to improve and create more consistency in your performance.  Finally, this post addresses how coaches, teachers, leaders, and parents can use rituals to improve their “team’s” performance. 


Applying rituals and routines to teams and organizations require creativity, but can add significant value and positively impact the bottom line.  For teams and organizations, rituals can establish standards, set expectations, create predictability, and provide continuity.  A lack of rituals can bleed your organization of time, money, and most importantly, ENERGY.  There is little more frustrating than having a perfectly productive day interrupted by an impromptu meeting that is either unnecessary, ill-prepared, or should have been anticipated and scheduled.

Well thought out and developed organizational rituals can help.  Military units refer to these routines as a  “battle rhythm,” or a collection of recurring events that are identified, have clearly established standards and outcomes, and are scheduled to facilitate planning and preparation.  This “battle rhythm” adds predictability and helps minimize disruptions to the organization’s mission.

As a leader, take the time to understand rituals and how they can support your team’s effort.  Practical examples include:

  • Meeting agendas to identify participants, topics, discussion sequence, and required products (calendar, trackers, etc.). These simple and common-sense considerations can rapidly improve meeting productivity and reduce meeting times dramatically. 
  • Pre-event checks used to verify systems are functional and operational, inventory the required equipment / supplies / tools, etc. making sure they are on-hand, discuss roles and responsibilities for those involved.
  • Rehearsals or “walk throughs of important events to ensure a common understanding of the roles and responsibilities.
  • After-action-reviews (known as AARs within the military community) of major events to assess what happened and what actions are necessary to improve. AARs can be game changing.  They require a level of organization / team trust, communication, and maturity.  Initially, they can be uncomfortable for some, but over time, can become second nature.  Be careful of your tone and how you use the AAR process.  If not carefully managed, AARs can have unintended consequences resulting in poor participation, inflating actual results, or stymie initiative and risk taking.  They are an effort to improve organizational performance, not an opportunity to publicly assault individuals for failed efforts. 

As a coach or leader, managing the time and energy of your team is as, if not more important, than managing your own time.  Your team will struggle to be productive if they routinely get whipped-sawed by pop-up meetings or calls.  It is difficult for teammates to make timely, sound, and decentralized decisions in a challenging and dynamic environment without current and accurate situational awareness.  Well thought out and effective organizational rituals and routines can help and take your team’s or organization’s effort to the next level by adding certainty and predictability to what otherwise can be a challenging and fluid environment.

Sources:

  • Bradt, S. (2010, November 11). Wandering mind not a happy mind”. Retrieved from The Harvard Gazette: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  • Clear, J. (2016). Atomic Habits. Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. New York: Avery.
  • Cole, B. (2019). Performance Rituals. Retrieved from The Mental Game: https://www.mentalgamecoach.com/articles/Article2_02.html
  • Elrod, H. (2014). The Miracle Morning. The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8AM. Hal Elrod.
  • Lardon, M., & Leadbetter, D. (2008). Finding Your Zone. Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life. New York: Perigee Book.
  • Le Cunff, A.-L. (2019). Habits, routines, rituals. Retrieved from Ness Labs: https://nesslabs.com/habits-routines-rituals
  • McRaven, W. H. (2017). Make Your Bed. Little Things That Can Change Your Life, And Maybe The World. New York: Grand Central Publishing.
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