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Expect The Best – You Might Just Get It

For anyone in the process of building or re-engaging a workteam, setting expectations and the right tone for what’s acceptable behavior is vital for healthy cohesion. Rather than establishing ground rules, Tammy Lenski suggests creating group norms.

Group norms are co-created, with time for consideration (instead of an exercise to be gotten through) and updated as the team’s interactions grow organically over time. Group norms suggest, “This is what we believe will help create robust dialogue in our group,” while ground rules suggest, “Don’t violate these rules or you’re not a team player.” Group norms are an invitation, ground rules an order.

The problem with ground rules is that they present a false sense of control. As Tammy notes, “Just because someone tells you never to interrupt in a stressful meeting, does that mean you can magically stop?” Even more troublesome is that ground rules automatically presume that there will be problems (gasp…perhaps conflict) that will require a set of rules to resolve.

Tammy shares a few of her favorite norms that you can use to kickstart the process of introducing group norms to your workteam. Here are two that I like:

  • Curiosity is always welcomed. Ask questions born out of genuine curiosity and the desire to understand the other’s perspective.
  • It’s OK to disagree. You don’t need to share another’s thinking about everything we talk about. How you challenge will can the difference between stubborn debate and real dialogue.

Creating an organically evolving set of group norms signals an expectation that everyone is bringing their best to the team.

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