Team Norms, Resilience and Performance

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Over the next few weeks I’m sharing my thoughts on the six characteristics of a resilient team and last week I shared the importance of Common Purpose.

I was going to talk about Trust this week but I’m going to be doing that next week instead because I want to share something with you that links really well to common purpose – and that is, what I’ve learned about the importance of team norms….. because without team norms you may struggle to focus or deliver on your common purpose.

Let me explain.

Norms are the often informal rules and ‘ways of being’ that regulate team behaviour.  So teams may have norms that support resilience or detract from it; that support team performance or make teams ineffective.

There’s more.

‘Norms that build trust, group identity, and group efficacy are the key to making teams click’. Say Professor Vanessa Druskat and Dr Steven B Wolff  in their  HBR article Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups.

Their findings are based on over 20 years of research on team effectiveness and emotional intelligence.  Their research indicates that strong team norms help teams not only to ‘click’  – there is also a strong positive link between Team EI norms and team performance.

So what are ‘Team EI norms?’

They are  the norms that help a team to generate positive emotion.

‘So, is there a ‘laundry list’ of team norms that each team should have?’  I hear you ask?

Not necessarily.

In 2012 Google embarked on an initiative to find out why some teams succeeded and some didn’t.  They looked for patterns –but couldn’t find any.  ‘We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference.  The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’

The researchers identified instead that ‘what distinguished the ‘good’ teams from the dysfunctional groups was how team mates treated one another. The right norms, in other words, could raise a group’s collective intelligence whereas the wrong norms could hobble a team, even if, individually, all the members were exceptionally bright.’

Here are some of the most interesting things they learned (read the full article for more):

‘In the best teams, members listen to one another and show sensitivity to feelings and needs’

‘If only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined’

But the most important learning was this:

There is no ‘right way’ to do this.  It’s about finding out what is right for your team – so one team may let everyone take a turn to speak in a ‘round’; another might do something different.

Contact me to find out more about team norms and how to measure your team’s Emotional Intelligence.