Not all norms are beneficial for your team.
Easy transmission of norms
- For example, you might have developed the norm that it is okay to take phone calls during business meetings.
- Picking up a phone might be very beneficial behavior for a crisis team, but most teams will be hindered when a meeting is interrupted by a phone call.
- The phone taking norm might have been formed because a team member (it might even be you) started to take calls during meetings.
- Since, norms are easily transmitted, especially as the role model is the boss, other members could have copied the behavior quickly.
Changing norm is hard
- So, let’s assume that you want to change this norm. How can you do this?
- Well, I am sorry to disappoint, but norms are extremely difficult to change.
- Norms are consensual; accepted by many team members and team members have internalized the behavior, maybe over a long period.
- And if you have ever tried to change internalized behavior once, for example because you wanted to quit smoking, start running, or eat less pizza, you know how hard it is to accomplish this.
- A good starting point to change a norm is to discuss it.
- Norms are often implicit and maybe team members do not realize it that unwanted norms have developed.
- You could either discuss the norm directly or indirectly.
- An example of a direct way is to ask team members how they feel about certain behavior, such as picking up phones during meetings.
- An indirect way of discussingnorms is by mentioning the consequence of a norm (longer meetings due to phone | call interruptions) followed by reflection on its causes.
- The previous exercise might be a good vehicle for norm discussions.
- However, monitor these discussions well because process conflict is lurking which can be harmful for team performance.