Whether in the regular tempo of a cyclist’s pedal stroke, or in the pattern of a leader’s day, rhythm creates energy. Our brains love repeating rhythmic patterns: research has shown that our body’s cells are something like tiny clocks, with rhythmic sequences synchronizing sleep, digestion, muscle activity, and so much more.
As the school year starts and my family re-establishes the rituals and rhythms of fall, I am reminded of the importance of daily patterns and repetitions as a way of nurturing our lives, from helping a family stay together to creating a healthy and engaged team at work. We like to establish a common pulse that we can lock onto.
Most leaders, including the ones I work with, also follow and establish rhythms to create better structure, commitment, and norms. All organizations have macro organizational rhythms. But the challenge for leaders is to create their own rhythms and patterns for their teams, creating a comfortable structure and predictability. These patterns are powerful.
Two characteristics of a healthy team cadence:
- Built-in, predictable times for making decisions and resolving conflict. This keeps teammates from holding on to anxiety or stress for too long.
- Time for spontaneity, giving a team the opportunity to get creative and try something different.
Once patterns are established, they help facilitate a joy and flow that the whole team can “dance” to, so to speak.
The following cadence calendar offers some possibilities for how and when to establish rituals as the leader of a team:
A daily cadence is optimal for on-the-fly updates and interruption handling.
Some options for daily rituals:
- Stand ups
- Check ins
- Meals (make sure your team has time for nourishment!)
Weekly or monthly
Every week or every few weeks is a good cadence for team communication and trend-spotting.
- Status meetings
- One on one meetings
- Reviewing key reports and metrics
Quarterly or episodic
For short-term planning, reflection, and celebration aim for a quarterly cadence.
- Project planning
- Performance reviews
- Team offsites or dinners
An annual cadence is best for long-term planning and for expensive processes.
- Company trips
- Critical goal setting
As a team lead, your role is to ensure that these frequencies make sense and actually help the team direct their energy. Not sure if it’s working? Ask them. If your team isn’t engaged during your weekly check-in, think about whether it’s at the right frequency. Look for gaps and make sure your cadence allows for planning, feedback, and importantly: celebration.
Rituals strengthen team bonds and can help reinforce desired behavior. Looking for an easy one to add to your list? Saying “thank you” to your team, or in front of the entire company, can be a powerful ritual.