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How to Create Healthy Group Norms for Team Communication

Fostering a healthy environment

Google researchers found that the ability to take risks in a safe environment was at the top of the list of group norms and made for happier, high-performing teams.

  • Be present in conversations and use active listening skills.
  • Show understanding. Recap discussion points and validate comments verbally.
  • Be inclusive. Express gratitude for teammates, build rapport, and encourage feedback.
  • Show confidence and conviction. State your decisions clearly and allow for vulnerability.

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How to Create Healthy Group Norms for Team Communication

How to Create Healthy Group Norms for Team Communication

https://doist.com/blog/group-norms-team-communication/

doist.com

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Key Ideas

Defining group norms

Group norms are the set of informal and formal ground rules that specify how people interact. The rules help members of the group determine how to behave. Advantages of clear ground rules within teams:

  • Meetings and communication are more constructive.
  • Teammates have a shared value system and work together to achieve goals.
  • Everyone knows what is expected of them, and they live up to the expectations.
  • Conflicts can be resolved more effectively and with understanding.
  • New teammates can integrate more quickly.

Intentionally create group norms

Every team has rules, but few are intentionally crafted. This could have a negative impact. For example:

  • In a team of two, it's easy to create short back-and-forth emails. As more team members join, it becomes more complex keeping everyone in the loop. Emails may include reply-alls about weekend plans and real-time decision-making, leading to unread emails and lost information.
  • A single individual dictates the rules for the group. He may inadvertently communicate late at night that can affect an entire company.

How to create healthy group norms

Setting up norms is easiest when the team is first created. It may take a special meeting at the start, but it saves time and diminish problems down the road.

Shifting group norms in an established team is possible, too. Cultivate positive behavioral expectations on high-functioning teams.

To solidify your team's shared rules, find allies

Creating norms requires the buy-in from most of the team members, including leadership.

The entire team needs to be engaged in the process for it to work very well.

Get specific about objectives and guidelines

When managers don't provide clear direction, employees will fill in the details with assumptions. However, what managers require may differ greatly from what the employees think their managers expect.

To avoid confusion, write down straightforward objectives and guidelines that are measurable and achievable. Then have a share-out of each person's honest opinions, so everyone has an idea of what is working and what is not. Decide on only three changes to implement at a time.

Getting everyone to follow the norms

Group norms are most effective when everyone follows them. If everyone agrees to the norms laid out, it will be easier to hold each other accountable.

It is important to post your norms somewhere visible and refer to them often.

Gently enforce the norms

It's normal to expect that these rules will be bent or broken. The transition from unspoken to written norms can be smoother when it is decided in advance how to deal with the offense.

If you don't call attention to that norm, you inadvertently create a second set of norms. If a rule is expecting everyone to be on time and you don't point out when someone oversteps that norm, you're saying that it's not that important to be on time. Peer-to-peer enforcement with some humor is an effective way to enforce the norms.

Norms are living agreements

They are not commandments set in stone.

It is valuable to continue to revisit them and change them as the team grows. Scheduling a meeting at regular intervals to provide feedback on the norms keeps the positive momentum going.

Fostering a healthy environment

Google researchers found that the ability to take risks in a safe environment was at the top of the list of group norms and made for happier, high-performing teams.

  • Be present in conversations and use active listening skills.
  • Show understanding. Recap discussion points and validate comments verbally.
  • Be inclusive. Express gratitude for teammates, build rapport, and encourage feedback.
  • Show confidence and conviction. State your decisions clearly and allow for vulnerability.

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Group Development Theory

Dr. Bruce Tuckman, a psychology professor, synthesized team development into four basic stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

Forming

This stage of teamwork is all about first meetings and first impressions.

What everyone needs most is a clear understanding of their part in the journey and a setup for building emotional connections. Setting goals together puts their skills and interests into the open.

Storming

Most teams go through the storming stage in some form or another because discord is inevitable. The key value to emphasize in the team is positive intent. 

A little conflict is needed to bring upfront weak spots in projects and to bring new valid arguments to the table. But constant storming leads to the destruction of productivity, projects, and ultimately, the team itself.

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Assembling the Team

... that's capable of executing in a remote setup:

  • Hire doers: they will get stuff done even if they are working from a secluded island.
  • Hire people you can trust....
Software/Tools

In a remote team, you'll need the right tools to make sure everyone stays on the same page and can continue to execute without a physical person standing next to them.

You likely will need a tool in certain categories like group chat and video conferencing to make remote successful.

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Good processes let you get work done in the absence of all else. They provide structure and direction for getting things done.

A few examples from Zapier:

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In the quest to create a real-time ...

Asynchronous Vs Synchronous Communication
  • Asynchronous communication is when we send a message (such as emails) without expecting an immediate response. The recipient can take hours to answer it.

  • Synchronous (or real-time) communication is when you and the other person are engaged in a face-to-face audio or video conversation, like a video call or a phone call. The information discussed is responded immediately.

Instant messaging tools like Slack or Teams are synchronous, and in some companies, email is also used as a real-time communication tool.

Communication Boom

Team communication has increased by 50 percent in the last 20 years. We spend an average of three hours a day working on emails. On an average, Slack users send about 200 messages in a day.

This near constant communication hampers work productivity, with video calls, one-on-one meetings, e-mail and team chat leaving little room for actual work.

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