Have You Clarified Your Team Norms?

Team norms are the foundation of your team CULTURE.

Your team CULTURE determines your team performance.


And while ALL leaders invest time and resources in strategy, that is never enough to build a GREAT team!

Strategy is what you want done, but CULTURE determines how it is done.

And CULTURE has become a buzz-word over the last few years…


There have been dozens on long, drawn-out explanations and prescriptions of what creates or impacts or defines the term.  But the truth is that it is relatively simple to understand…


CULTURE is the BEHAVIORS your team ALLOW to be repeated.


And even more important for team leaders to understand is the idea that the MOST IMPORTANT part of your team culture is the NORMS THAT YOU ESTABLISH early on in your team’s life-cycle.


So – What are Team Norms?


They are the agreed upon (and often unspoken) behaviors that every member of the team recognizes as standard operating procedure.


Every team has rules – some just aren’t printed and posted.

But everyone KNOWS what is allowed and what is not!


On the BEST TEAMS, though, team leaders invest TIME in defining a short list of defining team behaviors that are to be expected by ALL members – and they also define HOW the group will hold each other ACCOUNTABLE when violations occur.

(notice, I said WHEN, not IF – because there will always be missteps or bad moments… but Winning Teammates are consistent in addressing those so they do not become commonplace!)


SO How do You Define Team NORMS?


YOU can CLARIFY NORMS in THREE simple steps!


  1. Schedule time to have the entire team in a room to discuss what they believe should be expected behaviors by ALL team members

This will take a few minutes, and you should record the list of ideas that your people suggest on a whiteboard to discuss and clarify them.  You can share that a common list of team expectations might include things like:

-Begin and end meetings on time

-Come prepared

-Appropriate use of technology (stay off phones unless an emergency)

-Everyone participates, nobody dominates

-Respect everyone’s opinion

-Keep discussions confidential until ready to share outside the room



  1. NEXT, after compiling a list of behaviors that the team feels would be important to their success, explain that the BEST TEAMS limit their list of norms to FEWER than SIX – that way everyone can remember them.

So the second step is to go through the compiled list and identify which of them are the most important, keeping in mind that 4-5 are an ideal number…



  1. FINALLY, your job is to identify HOW you will address breakdowns in the team norms to ENSURE they are maintained by all team members.  (If they aren’t addressed, that communicates that they are acceptable)

You can share that a common list of team violation protocols might include things like:

-First offense: Visual Signal (ex: tapping of watch for being late)

-Second offense: Accountability Partner Conference

-Third Offense: Conference with manager / supervisor and plan created

-Further Offenses: Potential removal from the team



As a teamwork speaker, I can promise you that establishing team NORMS is a powerful tool to clarify team expectations and to ensure smooth interactions moving forward.


The time this will take may seem unwarranted early on… but if your team is expected to perform well together – whether in meetings or on a field or elsewhere – this step is a vital part of your team leadership role.

Clarifying WHAT is appropriate behavior and HOW any lapses will be addressed sets your team up for a far more successful experience. And as a team leader, one of the most fun moments you will experience is when your team members hold EACH OTHER accountable for violations and take ownership of ensuring their teammates’ maintain positive habits!


As a leader, this is only part of what it takes to develop Rapid Teamwork that GREAT teams enjoy.  Want to learn more about the five essential stpes to building a high-performance culture?

Check to Rapid Teamwork – a teamwork book you will actually enjoy reading!