Four teammates in a discussion

When leaders talk about high-performing teams, it’s often in the context of the impact that they can have on business outcomes. From better decision-making and innovative ideas to greater productivity and improved problem-solving, working groups that excel have the capacity to advance the enterprise.

People who are part of a high-performing team are often likely to think of these bottom-line results as well. They may also reflect on the feeling they get from being part of such an outstanding group, whether that may come from a sense of pride and accomplishment or perhaps the fun and ease of collaborating in a thriving environment.

What may get less attention is some of the behind-the-scenes elements that drive performance, including the way that teammates interact and behave with one another. Experts believe that establishing norms are an important factor in a group’s success.

Sometimes, people may not even be aware of the unwritten codes of conduct that lead to their effectiveness or their struggles, which is a missed opportunity. High-performing teams that understand the practices behind their achievements can further optimize execution and simplify the onboarding process when new hires join. For those departments that may be experiencing challenges, examining operating procedures shines a light on the behaviors that can hinder performance.

To create an environment where employees collaborate and interact to the best of their abilities, follow four tips to design meaningful, useful rules of engagement.

#1 – Discuss Existing Norms

The first step to identifying productive protocols is to talk about them. Schedule time to discuss how the group goes about their work, asking questions to uncover each person’s perception of the department’s collective approach as well as individual needs and expectations around topics like communication, decision-making, brainstorming and pacesetting. Uncovering commonalities or differences will reveal opportunities to create greater alignment or refine existing practices.

#2 – Consider the Cognitive Make-up

Examining the Thinking and Behavioral preferences of each person can bring awareness to the existing communication and interaction styles that enable them (and in effect the entire group) to thrive. Tools like Emergenetics® empower staff to understand their own tendencies as well as those of their colleagues. With these insights, teammates can evaluate norms and assess whether any adjustments could be made to better support one another’s work styles.

#3 – Encourage Each Person to Share Inputs

Give everyone a voice in the discussion to increase the odds that the norms the team decides on will allow each person to be successful, and not just the most vocal participants. To generate thoughtful conversation, I recommend inviting staff to write down their thoughts first either on chart paper or virtual whiteboards before talking through the ideas collectively. It may also be helpful to have sticky notes in an in-person meeting or, if meeting online, use the chat function of a virtual platform to bring those who may hesitate to speak up into the conversation.

#4 – Commit to Revisiting the Practices

After coming to a consensus on what the ground rules will be, identify a timeframe to review the agreements from two perspectives. First, if changes are being made, allow enough time for the adjustments to take hold without waiting too long. Otherwise, old habits may resurface. Try checking in after two to three weeks to assess how the modifications are going. Second, determine whether the practices are having the desired impact on the group’s operations. This process may take longer to assess, so consider reconnecting on the norms themselves in six to eight weeks.

Seven Touchstones for Better Productivity

If the team feels stumped about where to start, or if they are newly forming, the Emergenetics Attributes can provide inspiration for protocols that will boost departmental effectiveness. To honor the many ways that people prefer to engage with each other and accomplish their work, consider these thought starters as a launch point to identify a short list of agreements:

  • To support the Analytical Attribute, assess how reasoning factors into the group’s interactions.
  • To honor the Structural Attribute, reflect on the role of accountability in team dynamics.
  • To encourage the Social Attribute, consider how colleagues’ concerns and feelings are addressed.
  • To connect to the Conceptual Attribute, discuss what experimentation may be embraced.
  • To respect the Expressiveness Attribute, determine ways that teammates will be encouraged to share their thoughts with one another.
  • To support the Assertiveness Attribute, evaluate the pace that is most reasonable and engaging for the group.
  • To speak to the Flexibility Attribute, consider the “loose” and “tight” rules that will guide the team.

Emergenetics Associate Tip

Encourage team members to take part in a WEboarding activity to reflect on the agreements that would support the performance of each preference (or at minimum, the preferences represented in the department). Using chart paper or virtual whiteboards, invite staff to share their thoughts on what actions best honor each Attribute. Then, work together to integrate these considerations into a list of three to five team norms.

When staff clearly define their own best practices for collaborating, it will empower them to work to the best of their ability. To get more help defining the right guidelines to support your people, I encourage you to explore our Power of WE workshops. In addition to our Crafting Team Norms session, these programs offer many different pathways to better performance.

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