Teams need norms. Some teams call them "ground rules" or "operating principals". It’s no surprise that when MIT and Google studied team effectiveness, they found that having team norms was essential. I used to underestimate the process of creating team norms and see them as a “check the box” moment with team facilitation. After working with a lot of teams, especially over time, I learned how important they are and I use a more rigorous process.
Why are team ground rules so important?
Really great teams are often diverse. Members bring different knowledge, skills, backgrounds, experiences and personalities. The more diverse the team, the more profound the differences in expectations for what productive interactions look like. If you have read my other posts on the importance of psychological safety to team effectiveness, you will understand that the more safe people feel to speak up, be authentic and share their best, the more effective the team will be. And of course the reverse is true – if people feel like their way of being, communicating or interacting is discounted or dismissed, they will be less likely to speak up or contribute in other ways
Creating team ground rules or norms is a way of creating an “interaction playbook” of how you want team members to show up, be present, communicate (listening and speaking), make decisions, appreciate and follow through. The goal is to create a set of behavioral norms all members agree to honor and uphold. If you want to access the optimal contribution, you want everyone to feel like their experiences, insights and perspectives matter (even if you don't agree with them). This process of creating team norms allows everyone to create a space where they feel comfortable and safe to contribute, challenge others and most importantly, perform.
Here are a few pointers for creating effective team ground rules/norms:
The hardest part is for team members to keep the norms alive and call each other on behaviors that run counter to those to which they have agreed. In the end, creating a space where all can contribute their best work is more than worth it.
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.