Norms can help clarify expectations, promote open dialogue, and serve as a powerful tool for holding members accountable.1Lencioni, 2005

Meetings, regardless of size or length, are more effective when meeting norms are established, practiced and monitored. Norms help clarify expectations in large and small groups. Following norms can help save time in meetings.

Significance of Team Norms

When all is said and done, the norms of a group help determine whether it functions as a high-performing team or becomes simply a loose collection of people working together.2Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. Bantam.

Norms work if they are used. If group behaviors are unproductive, it is likely because they have developed norms and aren’t adhering to them, or their norms need to be adapted. The role of “norms-minder” is important to the work of collaborative teams, see section on roles for additional information.

Positive norms stick only if the group puts them into practice over and over again. Being explicit about norms raises the level of effectiveness, maximizes emotional intelligence, produces a positive experience for group members, and helps to socialize newcomers into the group quickly.


Norms are protocols and commitments developed by each team to guide members in working together. Norms help team members to clarify expectations regarding how they will work together to achieve their shared goals.3Professional Learning Communities at Work Plan Book 2006 Solution Tree When developing group norms, there are some guidelines your group may want to consider. These are a few items you may want to discuss in order to lead your group to an understanding of what norms are and how they should affect the group functioning.

Norms are…

  • simple, powerful statements about the way meetings can be run.
  • commitments agreed upon collectively.
  • consistent reminder of fundamental meeting guidelines.
  • focus on respecting all participants.
  • brief in number (Teams should focus on a few critical norms rather than an extensive laundry list).


Meeting norms are set ground rules or expectations on how people treat each other at a meeting, and as part of an ongoing team. These are collective commitments, public agreements shared by all members of the group.

Use the document, “Why Should We Create Norms?” Read over the quotes. Select one that resonates with you, reflect and jot down why.


When developing group norms, there are some guidelines your group may want to consider. These are a few items you may want to discuss in order to lead your group to an understanding of what norms are and how they should effect the group functioning. Fewer more direct norms should positively affect the group. Too many norms can lead to overly restrictive environments where individuals don’t feel comfortable sharing ideas.

In your Collaborative Teams, you may choose to use Common Meeting Norms or create your own to better meet your needs. Sometimes schools create school-wide norms so that whenever small or larger groups in the school meet, the norms are the same. The point is – norms are an important part of effective teams WHEN they are honored and monitored. Creating table tents used at every meeting, or norm posters in every meeting room, or included on each agenda are ways to remind teams of the meeting norm.

Some schools have already established meeting norms. If you have meeting norms, are they working? Of these or your own norms, which one do you feel is the most important? Which of your norms or these listed above is the hardest one to maintain/monitor? What prompts do you use when norms in your meetings are violated?

Common Meeting Norms

  • Team/Group Name.
  • Begin and end on time.
  • Be an engaged participant.
  • Be an active listener—open to new ideas.
  • Use notes for side bar conversations.
  • Use electronics respectfully.

If a team is not functioning effectively – the first step is to revisit the meeting norms. Are team members following the norms? If not, how can you get back on track?


Developing Team Norms

As each individual considers what is important to them in group meetings, it will be the sharing of these ideas, and coming to group consensus that brings all participants ideas together in a list of norms that all agree to accept and follow.

Example Norm Development Activity

Think about using the following activity at the start of a new year with a new collaborating team.

  • Write 5-7 ideas about how you would like to see us work together
  • Pair Share
  • Pair Square
  • Square Pair or/Whole Group
  • Collapse and select which ones are absolutely essential to keep

Give sufficient time to each person to individually write in the initial step. Then as they share these norms with first a partner, then as two partners sharing, be sure to have them listen actively, and not fall into the trap of word-smithing. If two proposed norms say the same thing, they are powerful because multiple people thought of them, so just agree on one and move on. Note: these groups will be dealing with student data and student work. Respect for students, including privacy, should be part of every groups norms.

The outcome of this activity should be a concise list of norms that can be utilized by all teams in the building. Each team in the building should operate under the same norms, to facilitate those staff who might need to serve on multiple teams, or switch teams. The power is in adhering to the norms, and becoming willing to hold each other accountable for following the norms.

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