Creating group norms

Tip Sheet

Last updated on May 14th, 2019 at 04:03 am

If you’ve ever been a part of an effective executive team, you know the factors that contributed to its success – easily flowing communication, common goals, mutual support and dedication.

In a Harvard Business Review article, CEO coach and leadership speaker Sabina Nawaz says following group norms, or an agreed upon set of behaviors, is an important practice for maintaining a successful executive team. She suggests five steps to creating your team’s norms and putting them into practice:

1. Use past experiences to identify successful norms.

Think back to times when your current or previous team worked well together and identify some contributing factors, such as consistent communication or being present during conversations, that led to that success. These will become some of your team’s norms.

2. Translate the norms into behaviors.

After listing your desired norms as a group, discuss how to act upon them and turn them into collective behavior. Nawaz uses the example of encouraging equal participation during meetings: Brainstorm what equal participation looks like to your group. Then, create the behavior, which could be for key issues or decisions, asking for every team member’s vocal input “starting with the person who’s spoken the least in that day’s meeting.”

3. Prioritize the top five norms.

As a group, choose one to five norms that are most important and commit to practicing those first. The fewer norms the group tries to master at once, the more impactful they will be.

4. Create an achievable and measurable plan.

Create a game plan for enacting those norms so your effort is not wasted. The plan should be specific, appointing owners and setting timelines for how your team will commit to each norm.

5. Hold each other accountable

Discuss the ways your team will check in with one another and hold each other accountable throughout this time of change.

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