OUR COVID DAILY STAND-UP
Rituals are more than habits. Both are patterns of behavior, but habits are often done unconsciously. Look no further than your smart phone to get a sense of what I mean.
Rituals, on the other hand, are enacted with greater purpose and intention. There’s heightened meaning in the actions we take when under the spell of a ritual (I couldn’t resist). Religious connotations notwithstanding, rituals have proven effective in reducing anxiety and grief. They can bring people closer, reinforce commitment, and return a sense of control and familiarity when so much feels lost.
Our team has been fortunate so far to remain healthy during this crisis. We are aware of how hard others have been hit. It’s a big part of what motivates us to ‘go to work’ every day. But our compassion for others also extends to each other. We are also sensitive to how stress can accumulate in small, often undetectable ways.
Sometime in March as the crisis began to take hold, our team decided to institute a daily standup meeting. It was our response to the collective and individual overwhelm of the moment and a recognition that we need to come together to support one other.
The meeting isn’t a status update (although we incorporate that too). Instead this is structured time and space for us to share how we’re doing.
We are all navigating high levels of change and uncertainty. Lives are actually at stake. Small businesses are failing or resting on the precipice. Our clients need us more than ever. Our loved ones need us. Some of us are homeschooling. Others are isolated at home alone. No matter the situation the stress and pressure compounds and it can be really easy to deflect attention from yourself and your needs.
Put simply, it’s a lot for any one of us to handle alone. And while we’re all fortunate to have people in our lives to turn to for support, we felt it necessary to rally together as a team in a more structured and routine way.
Just having the time on the schedule every morning is itself soothing. It provides structure and stability. We show up knowing why we’re there; that a secure space is available to share our feelings (good or bad).
The daily standup is well-trodden territory. So much so that it probably gets an unfair rap. That doesn’t have to be the case, however, if designed well. Researchers say that an effective ritual must have intention, a contextual trigger, and a script.
Here’s what’s worked for us:
Our intention is to come together as a team to support one other in a time of need.
Our contextual trigger is that we do it every weekday morning for 30 minutes (sometimes longer depending on where the conversation leads).
Our script consists of four components.
Celebrations: Just as it sounds. We each share something we’re happy or excited about.
What we’re working on: We go around the zoom room and share the things we’re working on that day. Sometimes it affords the opportunity to ask for or offer help.
Feelings: This is the point in the conversation where we share any thoughts or feelings we’re experiencing. It might be an annoyance we want to get off of our chests. Or, something in the news. It’s open time to share anything that’s weighing on our minds.
Gratitude: We take a little time at the end of the call to recognize and thank someone else on the team for their recent efforts. Everyone is chipping in and going beyond the call to deliver right now. It’s a small yet impactful gesture to recognize those efforts.
These meetings have been great for our team. In a time of need, our own ritual has reduced anxiety, reinforced commitment to our work and each other, and brought us closer when we’re physically apart.
Wes Melville is COO of BGSD Strategies.