How to Become Remarkable by Violating Rituals

Rituals provide predictability and enable connection. They’re also boring.

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I visit our local Starbucks, when I’m in town. There’s a place for me in the conversation pit that consists of business leaders, contractors, and college students. I know most of the people in the circle. More importantly, they know me. 

I enter through the side door. The conversation pit is situated at the far end. Jack stands when he sees me. I ignore everyone and walk in his direction. We hug. I quietly whisper in his ear, “I love you Jack.” He’s about 90 and in great health. I anticipate this ritual and miss it when Jack’s not in.

Starbucks in Denver might look familiar, but it doesn’t feel the same as my Starbucks.

Rituals are familiar behaviors we depend on.

Ritual as opportunity

Leaders engage in business rituals every day.

  1. Greetings.
  2. Interruptions.
  3. Meetings.
  4. Successes.
  5. Problems.
  6. Feedback.
  7. Good-nights.

What’s your typical response to an interruption, for example? How might you elevate habitual behaviors to new levels of usefulness?

Violate rituals

Rituals do more than enable connection. They establish expectations.

In order to exceed expectations you must violate a ritual.

One morning, after sipping coffee at Starbucks, I invited Jack to breakfast. It was delightful because it went beyond our ritual.

  1. Pause and take your morning greeting to a new place.
  2. End a problem-solving conversation with, “So, how are you doing?”
  3. Hold a monthly one-on-one at a coffee shop, rather than the office.

The beauty and opportunity of ritual is predictability. Predictable conformity enables connection. But predictability is also boring.

Step toward extraordinary interactions by violating rituals.

Rituals become unconscious behaviors. Remarkable leaders challenge unconscious behaviors.

How might rituals serve you and your organization well?

When is violating rituals helpful? Unhelpful?