Merge's Blog

Jointly develop team norms and standards for your virtual or hybrid teams

In my last strategy on Leading virtual or hybrid teams, I started explaining how to conduct a kick-off meeting to get your team’s buy-in to your desired workplace culture. I told you about how to create a word cloud as part of a visioning exercise. I promised then that I would tell you in the next video how to conduct the second part of your meeting – the process you and your team can jointly use to develop your team norms and standards. So here I am!

Jointly develop team norms and standards

Now remember, at this point, you should have a word cloud that your team created, so make sure that everyone has a copy of that as you get into Part Two. This should guide you as you collectively develop your team norms.

Team norms are basically relationship guidelines – an agreed-to code of conduct as to how team members behave and act with one another. Over time, team members develop particular ways of interacting with each other until those habits become behavioural expectations. Whether you were consciously aware or not, you had norms before you switched to virtual or hybrid teams. But now they are particularly important because everyone is not in the same place. People don’t have the visual or behaviour cues to tell them how they should get things done and how to relate to one another. Which is why this is Part 2 of your kick-off meeting.

Follow these five recommended steps with your virtual or hybrid teams

I am going to give you five steps to create these team norms. Now this is the process I follow, and I use it because it is very effective. But if you have an alternate approach that you’d prefer to use, please do. It’s more important that this get done than how it is done.

1.  Create a shared Word document in Google docs with five categories – (1) values, (2) interactions with one another, (3) decisions, (4) conflict, and (5) logistics. If you prefer to use another collaborative platform that lets everyone update in real time, go ahead.

2.  Ask each person to reflect on and record behaviours that they consider ideal behaviours for the group, and then type them into the most appropriate category. This may get a little crazy with everyone working on the document at the same time, but have fun with it. If someone has already typed in what you wanted to say, put a plus one beside it. If you’re wondering how this might work, let me give you some ideas.

  • Possible values could be: Being bold isn’t bad; or Share the work equals share the credit; or Notice when someone needs help and offer; or Keep it simple; or communicate openly even when it’s not comfortable.
  • Possible interactions with one another might be: Raise the issue with the person involved rather than someone else; or Respond to emails within one day; or Celebrate successes.
  • Possible entries under the decisions category could be: At least two people must agree on a decision; or We will make a decision once everyone has had an opportunity to be heard; or Data rules over gut instinct.
  • Under the conflict category, you could have: Focus on tasks, not on people; or Use mistakes as a learning opportunity.
  • Possible logistics norms might be: Everyone available during core hours; or Be mentally present in team meetings

It’s not as important that you get it in the right category because many items will fall into more than one; it’s more important that you get it down somewhere on the document. This step will usually take at least 15minutes.

3.  Now go through the Word document as a large team, and have one of your team members take on the role of updating the document as you go. Your task in this third step is to read off each item, see if it can be combined or collapsed into something that has already come up, and then agree as a group whether this should be adopted as a team norm. You could ask for a thumbs up or down to indicate support or find another way for each team member to indicate to the team his or her willingness to abide by these ground rules. This will step will usually take the longest, at least 30 minutes, often more.

4.  Discuss how the team will maintain these norms.

5.  Ask your document updater to title the document “Team Norms” and make sure that all team members get an individual copy.

This isn’t complicated, really!

Like the word cloud visioning exercise I gave you in Strategy #2, this team norms process may seem complicated. It isn’t. Perhaps more importantly, it is incredibly valuable if you want your virtual or hybrid teams to be successful.

So … what do you think? Do you think this deliberate process to establish your workplace norms will work? Have you done something similar? What are you doing to make your virtual or hybrid teams successful? I’d love to hear about your experiences, please add your thoughts below.

P.S. Would you like some help in facilitating this team norms exercise with your team? I’d love to help. Drop me an email and we can set up a time to talk to see if I can help you make your virtual or hybrid teams wildly successful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.