July 26


Leadership hack 023 – setting team norms helps your team perform after the honeymoon has ended

Building great teams is notoriously difficult.  Setting an agreed list of team norms can help teams become more productive faster.

Teams take time and investment to become high-performing (see here).   The most challenging phase is what Tuckman called the ‘storming’ phase.  Once the team has formed and after the honeymoon period is over, team members soon get frustrated by each other’s idiosyncrasies, often resulting in conflict.  Agreeing on a set of team norms or behaviours early can help the team get through the ‘storming’ phase faster and with less turmoil.  There are a few principles that help:

  1. Set norms together.  It is essential that the norms are not imposed from the top.  Spend time getting to know each other, and invest at least an hour discussing what is important to the team as a whole and to each member of the team
  2. Focus on the important stuff.  You will probably have too many at the start.  Realistically, you need no more than seven so spend time consolidating and prioritising your norms
  3. Commit.  Once you have an agreed your norms as a team.  Write them up and decide to them individually and collectively.  Print them out and put them in a prominent place
  4. Reflect and revisit regularly.   Agile teams take time out to learn.  People and circumstances change, and the team should pause and reflect on their norms, how they are working and adjust if necessary.  A good time to do this is at your retrospective


To help you out, here are some norms my teams have created in the past:

  • The customer is always right, everyone else bring data
  • Be prepared – be prepared for meetings, be prepared for the day and be prepared for change
  • Get out of the office once a day (gym, walk, lunch)
  • All meetings are optional – if you are not adding or getting value, just leave
  • Do not cc people unless they really need to know
  • Think ‘who else needs to know’
  • If someone has their headphones on they are concentrating. Don’t disturb them, send a Slack message

I have used team norms to help teams get better, faster.  I hope you find this useful.  Let me know if you have any great ideas.