Teams and Social Norms

team_jason-taelliousI’ve talked about the need for establishing guiding principles—or social norms—for negotiating and operating strategic contract relationships but


It’s important that the norms embodied in the “what’s in it for we?” contract negotiation process be firmly embedded throughout the organization, or else new and existing relationships will struggle. Everyone should be on the same page with the implementation of contracts, and with how they interact with each other. Team tug- of-war competitions might fun for the company picnic, but not for the company.

There are six relationship principles described in the book, Getting to We, both in negotiating the relationship and in the subsequent operation of the partnership. The WIIFWe mindset, which is fundamental to a Vested relationship, dictates that agreement partners mutually agree to act according to the following set of six guiding principles that include reciprocity, autonomy, honesty, loyalty, equity and integrity.

Team members should also abide by the same social norms. In other words,

Susan M. Heathfield, in an article for website, says cohesive teams are the result of group norms and relationship guidelines.

Her list of sample team norms that teams should commit to include:

  • Trust each other
  • Treat each other with dignity and respect
  • Transparency: avoid hidden agendas
  • Be genuine with each other about ideas, challenges, and feelings
  • Team members will practice a consistent commitment to sharing all the information they have
  • Practice being open-minded
  • Rather than searching for the guilty, give your colleagues the benefit of the doubt through a clean slate process
  • Support each other—don’t throw each other under the bus
  • Avoid territoriality
  • Managers are open, communicative, and authentic with each other and their teams.
  • It’s okay to not know the right answer and to admit it. The team can find the answer
  • Problems are presented in a way that promotes mutual discussion and resolution.
  • It is safe to be wrong as a manager. Thoughtful decision-making is expected.
  • Practice and experience humility—each of the team members may not have all the answers
  • If you commit to doing something—do it. Be accountable and responsible for the team and to the team
  • Strive to continuously improve and achieve the team’s strategic goals. Don’t let ineffective relationships and interactions sabotage the team’s work

It’s a long list, and many points are pretty obvious but my take is that following the six Vested guiding principles puts your teams on the path to accomplish them.

If you don’t set positive social norms, people won’t necessarily follow them, so the group will then revert to the lowest common denominator in behavior.

Image: team by Jason Taellious via Flickr CC

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