6) Symbols, rituals and measures

6) Symbols, rituals and measures

Our recent articles have been guiding you through how to create a deliberate culture in a hybrid world.

We have covered how to articulate what you want; how to align leaders and create a movement of advocates; how to hardwire your culture and how to use the opportunity of restructures to support your culture.

This final article shares tips on how to use symbols, rituals and measures to accelerate getting the culture you want.

Symbols and rituals are such a powerful sign of an organisation’s culture and many have been totally wiped out by enforced remote working. Posters on the walls, creative office spaces, team nights out, celebration huddles – the visual and physical signs of ‘what’s important around here’ have gone.

Our contact with each other is generally now limited to emails, virtual meetings and live streams on collaboration tools, such as, Slack. So cues of what’s important around here need to be thoughtfully considered and persistently executed.  Without everyday contact simple acts can be amplified and interpreted incorrectly.  A leader sending emails late at night, may be construed as an expectation that their team should be working similar hours, when they just wanted to clear their To Do list before going to bed.

What a leader prioritises when the team gets together sends a strong signal of what they value. Is their focus entirely on tasks? Or are they asking about customer experience? Or their team’s capacity and wellbeing?

Quality 121s have a dramatic impact on employees’ experience, especially in this remote world of work. Using these to understand the conditions needed for success are more important than ever, with a particular awareness of how reluctant some people are to ask for help or show any signs of not coping.

Whatever culture you are aiming for, a strong sense of community and belonging is integral to all high-performing organisations. Enforced remote working has impacted our natural work communities and we have grown weary of the Zoom quizzes, virtual bake offs, Friday drinks, best pet competitions that kept many upbeat during the first lockdown. Creating a strong sense of belonging needs to move away from events and become a tacit part of day-to-day working life.

Measuring the degree to which your culture is reflective of your organisation’s values is harder now that we are not physically in each other’s company. However simple tools such as pulse-checks are still easy and effective to use, keeping questions focused on behaviour and impact, not just how people are feeling.

So, how do you establish new symbols, rituals and measure in a hybrid world?

  1. Ask the people who will be honest with you – find out how you are impacting your teams and what symbolic changes you can make to encourage the behaviours you are looking for culturally.
  2. Check-out your busy-ness habits – managing to outcome, not busy-ness, is critical for leading remote teams. Be honest – when you were in the office, to what degree did you judge people’s performance by their presenteeism? And your own? Get good at agreeing expectations and focusing on the outcomes.
  3. Stay informed – agree team measures and include behaviours, colleague and customer experience. Make it quick, easy and simple to use – one or two key questions with emojis to track progress weekly and agree what action to take.
  4. Focus on wellbeing – people often withdraw when they are suffering, give people plenty of avenues to reach out for help. Access research-based training such as MHFAE First Aiders to equip your leaders.
  5. Different people need different things – don’t try and have a corporate approach to building social connections. Be clear on the outcome you want to achieve and leave teams to decide how they want to do it.


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