Team Leadership Guide

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  Team Norms  

Teamwork and cooperation require that team members establish expectations for how they will work together.  These expectations, or team norms, are ground rules for behavior.  Each team should isolate a set of norms that becomes its “code of conduct.”

Frequently norms are not specifically stated and team leaders mistakenly assume that acceptable normative behavior is understood by all, even new hires.  It is important for a team to agree upon its norms so they can be clearly acted upon, passed on to new employees, and reevaluated periodically to fit the changing work environment.

Norm Fortification

Once teams establish behavior norms, it is imperative that leaders make an effort to follow-up and reinforce them.  Fortifying norms informs new participants, supports efforts to confront violating members, and reaffirms ongoing values.  Below are three actions to support team norms:

1. Tutor new team members.  Select a mentor or "buddy" to inform new participants about your team norms and expectations.

2. Provide informal feedback when appropriate.

Offer feedback when team members breach team norms.  Although this is not easy to do, below are five feedback principles that may help:

Timeliness--offer feedback immediately or shortly after the offending behavior.

Specificity--pinpoint the behavior, don't generalize.

Respect--avoid criticism and language that sounds punitive.

Responsibility--make it clear that your feedback is your observation or perception and explain the impact that the behavior has on you. 

 "Clay, I noticed that you arrived twenty minutes late for our meeting today.  Personally, I found this to be quite frustrating because I had to back up and fill you in on what you missed."

Check for understanding--be certain that the person understands what you said and your purpose for saying it.

3. Review norms

Occasionally, revisit your team norms.  Ask the following questions:

· Are our team norms still viable?

· Are we adhering to our norms?

· Are we offering appropriate feedback?

· Are our norms contributing to our success?