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Helping teams excel – Influence of attachment and psychological safety on team performance

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The power of rituals

Rituals can put people in touch with their own inner resources. Rituals are like a door that can be opened and closed (Van Gasteren, Reijmerink, Soeters, Van Wielink 2020). They help us in daily practice to mark the beginning and the end of everything we do. Through rituals, the leader contributes to the peace and security of a team. The members can thus experience that they really belong and matter, and they can realize goals together from that base. Being seen motivates.

Rituals contribute to the psychological safety in the group through the structure they provide. By pausing at important moments, birthdays, anniversaries, changes, successes and moments of failure or disappointment, everyone has a chance to reflect, to open the door to the future and to weave what was into daily reality. As a supervisor of teams, you can play an important role in these marking moments. By thinking about a ritual with the team and with the leader of the team, you help to give meaning to change and thus make transition possible.

Peter, together with Madeleine and the entire team, devises a way to reflect upon Esther, who had to leave the team and the organization due to illness. The chairs in a circle. An empty chair with a candle for Esther. One by one, everyone gets a chance to say something about Esther. Some share a memory of the moment Esther had confided in them and told them about her illness. Others share about how they had noticed she was getting worse and they had found it difficult to talk to her about it. Still others told of how proud they were when, under Esther’s leadership, they had successfully completed a very large and important project. Someone told of how he misses Esther and why. A ritual of sharing, of reflection, of saying goodbye. Everyone looks at each other. They look at Madeleine. She sits with tears in her eyes listening and watching her team. “I am so happy that you are all sharing this. I realize how important she was to you and how much you miss her. I feel proud for the privilege of filling her shoes. Will you help me do this the very best that I can?”

With rituals, we interweave what was with the reality that is now. By reflecting with others on changes, on loss, on farewells and on the emotions associated with them, the space is created to integrate the events into everyday life. Not to never talk about it or think about it again, but to think back together from time to time with gratitude and connection. So that the memory remains alive and a new reality becomes possible.

As a supervisor of teams you have a special role. It brings responsibilities, but also offers a unique opportunity to initiate real change in people and groups. By being a source, a secure base, you can help people in a team connect (again) (more deeply) with themselves and their colleagues. You have the opportunity to stimulate people to break old patterns in themselves and the group and encourage them to entrust themselves to each other. You can be the base from which this happens.
Are you prepared to serve as that base from which psychological safety can emerge and the team can develop?

The author would like to thank Klaartje van Gasteren and Jakob van Wielink for their involvement in the creation of this article.

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