Handbook for Effective Collaboration – Creating Shared Expectations – GROUP BEHAVIORAL NORMS

Shared Expectations regarding Group Behavioral Norms.

  • How will we treat each other as a group?
  • How will we safely and effectively engage the diversity of opinion that is bound to show up?

 “All too often in families, in organizations, and in communities, when well intentioned people find themselves struggling in difficult and contentious issues, there is a simple but powerful explanation:

 They haven’t created the shared expectations – the ground rules – for working out their differences.

And even when they do work out their differences, they often do so in ways that leave them frustrated, alienated from one another, resentful, and in dread of the next confrontation.”

Reaching Higher Ground In Conflict Resolution:

Tools for Powerful Groups and Communities

Dukes, Piscolish, and Stephens

 At the heart of conflict will often be found unmet, unclear, and/or misunderstood expectations.  Effective teams take the time to articulate and clarify their shared expectations regarding Group Behavioral Norms.  In addition they implement strategies for evaluating their performance against these shared parameters.  They hold themselves accountable to these commitments in order to build and maintain trust and safety.  Six key to success include:

  • Establish the Need – Clarify the importance of taking time to create these shared understandings.
  • Educate and Inspire – Hold a vision for doing outstanding work and building healthy relationships.
  • Begin by Envisioning the Desired Outcomes – Create a shared vision of a healthy, productive, respectful, and safe working community.
  • Promote Full Participation – Do not impose expectations.  Work with the group to elicit expectations they bring to the relationship and to which they will hold themselves accountable.
  • Be Accountable – Respectfully hold the group accountable to the expectations so as to maintain safety and build trust.
  • Evaluate and Revise – Revisit and continue to clarify the expectations.

In the introduction we introduced the notion of being “in-integrity” versus being “out-of-integrity”.  Clarification of your teams Group Norms is essential for operating “in-integrity”.  It is very difficult to hold people accountable to expectation that they have not participated in creating, have not been clarified or explained, or have been unilaterally imposed by an outside authority.

This is conversation is critical in that it creates a context in which to navigate more challenging and critical conversations as a team.  Groups too often avoid engaging certain issues because they do not feel safe engaging and navigating the diverse opinions that will surface.  Creating groups norms along with mechanisms for accountability is essential.

 Clarifying Group Norms

A Sample Activity

This activity, called an “Assumption Paper” is designed to surface the assumptions we hold regarding a particular issue.  In this context we will use it surface our assumptions and expectations about how we will function as an effective team.  The activity starts with some variation of the following prompt:

When I envision us as a highly effective, productive, and successful team, I assume . . .

  • Members of the group begin by responding to the prompt individually.  Give participants time to write their responses down in a bulleted format.  You may invite them to do this prior to the meeting in which you will share responses.
  •  Team members share their responses one at time.  This is typically done in circle with a facilitator/recorder writing responses down on flip chart paper.  Continue the process of each person sharing one expectation at a time until all responses have been recorded.
  •  Take time as a team to question and clarify the assumptions identified.  This is not about debate but is rather about taking time to seek understanding of what is meant by each response.  Do not assume you know what the person means.  Increase your curiosity.
  •  Reflect on the clarified list of assumptions and identify 5-7 key themes that have surfaced.
  •  These key themes can serve as foundational principles and practices framing your shared expectations as a group.  Identify and agree upon a set of guiding principles consistent with these themes as an initial draft of your group norms.
  •  Identify a process for evaluating your team’s performance against these expectations and revising them when necessary.



















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