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4 Ways to Set Team Norms

How do you enforce team norms lightly when you have a disruptive member?

Dear Dan,

When you have a disruptive team member with emotional outbursts that is limiting the team’s effectiveness, enforcing lightly just doesn’t seem to change the behavior. How do you maintain expectations when stepping outside of those behavioral boundaries only gets a light “slap on the wrist”?



When it comes to team norms, don’t play the role of Moses.

Dear Lyna,

Dealing with disruptors is challenging. If you aren’t skilled with tough issues, matters get worse. I suggest you begin by sharing the burden.

4 ways to set team norms and enforce them:

#1. Teams set team norms:

It feels like you feel alone. Don’t get me wrong, some responsibilities aren’t meant to be shared.

Team norms should be set by the team. Don’t play the role of Moses carrying the 10 commandments.

Google studied over 100 high performing teams.

“… the only pattern they found was that high performing teams had norms that guided how team members treated each other. Interestingly, there were no patterns among the norms, either. What worked for one team was the exact opposite of what worked for another team.” (Team Emotional Intelligence 2.0*)

How to establish team norms:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for team norms with the team.
  2. Ask team members to search the Internet and come with their favorite ideas.
  3. Delegate the task to a few team members. Discuss and vote.
High performing teams set their own norms.

#2. Evaluate and revise:

You won’t get your norms right the first time. Aspirational norms might be too high. If you haven’t started a meeting on time for years, setting a norm to start on time won’t work. Try something else.

When new team members join, refresh your norms*.

#3. Enforce norms lightly.

Choose to enforce team norms lightly. Give examples.

Suppose not interrupting is a team norm. When someone interrupts, interrupt them and ask, “Hey Mary, does not interrupting still work for you*?” Smile when you do it.

#4. Confront abusive violators in private.

You wouldn’t publicly bring up employee discipline. If the team confirms a norm and one team member persistently violates that norm, discuss it in private. Treat it the same as any other discipline matter.

Most team members won’t give each other corrective feedback. it’s too awkward.

What suggestions do you have for Lyna?

Which of the above items seem most important to you?

Dig Deeper: The-Emotional-Intelligence-of-Groups-Druskat-and-Wolff.pdf

*This post relies heavily on material from Team Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Note: I relax my 300-word limit on Dear Dan posts.

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