Last week we looked at and considered how teams perpetuate a norm through subtle pressure or outright punishment. It is not uncommon, after going through the process of determining what norms your team is using, to realize there are a few norms that are hurting your team performance.
A negative norm I have seen repeated on many teams is refusing to share information. As we discussed a few weeks ago, knowledge is power. But team members using knowledge to their gain at the detriment of the team or the larger organization is a problem.
Here are the steps you can take to change any norm that is limiting the potential of your team:
- Observe your team to determine the behaviors the norm is creating. Do your team members not speak up in meetings? Do they avoid meetings they should be attending? Do they send vague emails that lack necessary detail? Do they give out incorrect information or allow “accidental” misunderstandings to go unaddressed? Many norms are kept in place by passive/aggressive behaviors. You will have to pay close attention to notice them.
- What benefits are you team members getting by using the detrimental norm? Benefits can often include praise or acknowledgement from the leader or the group for following the norm.
- In contrast to the benefits, what punishment does your team use when someone doesn’t follow the norm? Giving the silent treatment and even blatantly calling someone out are two common punishments. Other punishments are more subtle. Maybe extra work gets piled up on the offender’s desk. Perhaps they aren’t included in social functions. I have even seen athletic teams do things like “forget” to include the offending teammate’s dirty uniform when laundry was sent out.
- How is the norm negatively affecting your team? What would be better if the norm was changed?
- Now you have all the information you need to be able have a conversation with your team. Discuss everything you have learned. Show them how your team could be more productive and successful if the norm is changed.
- As a team create a plan to change the norm. Make sure you include very specific behaviors. Have a way for teammates to discuss when they believe they are being punished for engaging in the new, productive norm.
- Create positive outcomes for not following the old norm. When someone sends an email with all of the information you needed, let them know how it a difference. Remember that it is important to acknowledge positive change.
Changing a team norm can be difficult. By being mindful and upfront about what needs to change, why change is beneficial and getting everyone to agree to working toward the change it can be done rather painlessly.
Have you ever tried to change a team norm? What was your experience? Were you successful or where the pressures to keep the status quo too great? We would love to hear your about experience in the comments.
Come back next week when we talk about the five things you should never say during an argument.