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Unlocking Team Potential: Wordle’s Unexpected Leadership Lessons

February 26, 2024

by Monette Anderson, CAE

As we get started on a new year and approach busy season, it’s a good opportunity for leaders to cultivate a culture of resilience within their teams. Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, highlights how simple actions like making your bed can link to better productivity and overall health. Echoing this, retired Admiral William H. McRaven in a commencement speech said, "If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day, giving you a small sense of pride and encouraging you to do another task, and another."

Reflecting on this, I pondered what the team equivalent of making your bed could be. In a team setting, particularly during high stakes or stressful times, how can a similar practice be employed? Maybe a team huddle where everyone shares goals or encourages the team to complete one task before they open their email and report what it was on a Teams or Slack channel? These all seemed favorable options. Then it hit me: my team had already established a daily ritual like this with the game Wordle. During the remote-work era prompted by COVID-19, we began sharing our Wordle scores in a group chat, celebrating wins and offering support on challenging days (Queue? Better luck next time). While this seems trivial, I realize its impact has been significant: 

  1. Cultivating a sense of team cohesion: Just as making your bed allows you to start the day with a sense of personal accomplishment and order, a team ritual like a morning Wordle game fosters a sense of belonging and engagement. It’s a morning ritual where everyone comes together outside a work-related meeting or discussion, to have a shared experience that’s both enjoyable and mentally stimulating. 
  2. Setting the Tone: These few minutes of camaraderie encourage a mindset of humor, competition and light-heartedness that becomes essential during stressful periods. Rituals like these can become a cornerstone for the day and team members feel connected, empowered, and energized to tackle the day’s challenges.
  3. Reinforcing Resilience: Routine and discipline is a key component of resilience. Grounding rituals like a morning or evening routine provide a sense of stability and normalcy that we can lean into when things become hectic or stressful. Amidst our daily chaos and to-do lists, there’s a constant that the team can rely on.
  4. Supporting an optimistic outlook and competence mindset: Tackling Wordle early in the day aligns with the idea of activation behaviors that promote goal achievement, as mentioned in Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, a book by Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney. It builds a sense of early accomplishment and a positive mindset, fueling momentum for larger tasks.

As a leader, I think the benefit to maintaining such a simple practice underscores the importance of mental well-being. It reminds me that while work and accomplishing tasks is important, so is the team’s emotional and psychological state. It’s a balance that’s crucial to our company culture and values. As we gear up for the demanding times ahead, I encourage leaders to consider small, daily practices like the Wordle challenge to bolster team resilience. If you start a daily Wordle challenge, I hope you’ll report back and share with me!

In line with this spirit, our WSCPA Peak Firm Program supports firms by enrolling all eligible staff as WSCPA members, offering benefits like simplified billing, free job board listings, recognition, and a Peak Firm logo for your website. Your staff benefit from shared resources and knowledge sharing. Peak Firms can now enjoy another new benefit, one annual in-house CPE or staff training focused on organizational and personal development topics such as productivity, inclusive meetings, or professional updates. For more information about the Peak Firm Program and how it can support your team during this busy season and beyond, feel free to reach out to me directly.

Monette Anderson, CAE, is WSCPA Vice President of Membership and Education and Executive Director of the Washington CPA Foundation. You can contact Monette by email.

This article appears in the winter 2024 issue of the Washington CPA magazine. Read more here.