4 Ways to Set Team Norms
How do you enforce team norms lightly when you have a disruptive member?
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”?
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:
- Brainstorm ideas for team norms with the team.
- Ask team members to search the Internet and come with their favorite ideas.
- Delegate the task to a few team members. Discuss and vote.
#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.
Help me understand how #3: “Hey Mary, does not interrupting still work for you*?” Smile when you do it. Isn’t doing #4 of publicly bringing attention to this behavior or being passive aggressive? I might be reading this incorrectly.
I read #3 as being more about giving gentle reminders when someone breaks the norms instead of publicly humiliating them by disciplining them. I agree that the example is a little passive-aggressive, though. I might instead say something like “I know we’re all passionate about this, but we did agree to not interrupt each other.” No names. And then afterwards, follow up with Mary to discuss techniques to ensure she complies with the norm. Again, this isn’t #4, at least not yet.
1. Put the team norms on the agenda. At the beginning of each meeting highlight/discuss one of the team norms. Discuss why it’s important.
2. At the end of the meeting do a process check. Each team member evaluates how well the actions of team members aligned with the team norms. Acknowledge what was done well and areas needing improvement.
3. The team leader needs to model the norms.
I like Paul’s idea of adding a process check at the end of the meeting. I understand the concept of confronting abusive violators in private. At the same time, team members need to have the courage to “put things on the table” in a kind, direct, and respectful manner. Allowing a “bully” to violate the team norms means that the bully runs the team.
I know there is a delicate balance while teams are forming, and building trust is one of the most important things a team can do, but how do you approach “bully” behavior in private while also acknowledging to the rest of the team that the behavior they witnessed will not be tolerated?
keeping a team cohesive also means everyone needs to feel safe to share.
In the meeting, ask the “bully” the following question:
1. Do you think your behavior is appropriate?
2. Do you think your behavior aligns with the values and norms that we all agreed to?
3. What was your goal in saying or doing what you did?
4. Why is the norm we agreed to important?
You want to ask him question –so he/she will pause and reflect on their behavior?
If you simply start telling him/her–they are a bully or their behavior is unacceptable, they will get defensive and go on the attack.
I wonder if maybe there is a fifth – Role Model them
“Most team members won’t give each other corrective feedback. it’s too awkward.”
Using the inspirations to be found in Brenée Browns engaged feedback checklist (https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/engaged-feedback-checklist-by-dr-brene-brown/), may make it less awkward to give feedback and even help strengthen the relationship between the two parties involved.
I have never been in a team where norms were consciously set by the team. It either worked by osmosis, or more often, was simply imposed from above.