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Elevate Above Pedestrian Norms

For many of the teams I know, norms are reasonably yawn-inducing. We gather around the white board or the flip chart at a particular moment, usually at the start of a year. People throw out statements, heads sagely nod around the table and these are duly written down. Then we file them away in a safe place, never to be seen again.

The checkbox is ticked: Create Team Norms

If anyone is or is not meeting the expected standard of behaviour, it is rarely discussed. The document is not used as a reference point or compass when we go astray.

For other teams, the process is taken seriously and the team shows accountability to each other, checking in how they are tracking against them regularly. The trouble is, they are often bland and mediocre statements at best. They are simply ways of being that any professional should have as a competency. They become a list of insipid behaviour statements that are no more inspiring than unseasoned tofu.

My personal trainer has a mantra: Challenge the norms. He loves thinking of different ways to stretch himself and his clients. I think this is such a useful way to look at the world in these days of uncertainty and rapid change. Our norms are often created to bring stability, sameness, certainty. Yet this is rarely the context we work in.

There are many performing teams out there eager to evolve. They are heading to high performance through their collective learning and improvement. They want to take and question the status quo. For professionals who are at this stage, my advice is to encourage and support each other to lift higher.

Co-create a team manifesto that is aspiring and inspiring.

This written commitment and driver of how the team works has components that stretch comfort zone's and capability. When we concentrate on a couple of them over a period of time, we consciously build our muscle on that particular competency and set about embedding them in how we work. These types of statements remind us that when we work as a collective our outcomes are elevated.

I encourage you to co-create an aspirational Team Manifesto - one that makes you inspired, energised and future focussed, rather than one that has the appeal of a dish of vanilla blancmange.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Question the status quo as a matter of process.
Have moments that ask questions to provoke different thinking. What would happen if we didn't do this? What are the reasons people might not agree with this? What if we did the opposite? How could we make this fail

Challenge our own thinking before challenging others
Too often when we challenge thinking, we come from an 'I' position and say: 'I'd like to challenge your thinking.' Change the statement to: 'I'd like to challenge MY thinking' first, then move to 'I'd like to challenge OUR thinking.'

Seek provocation - including seeking out those who don't agree with us.
Echo chambers can be found everywhere. So can bubbles where our environment keeps us safe and cosy. Let's keep our heads up and eyes out so we can see what is out there and challenge ourselves.

Be curious not defensive.
Curiosity is our way out of complacency and status quo. It is also the best way to understand each other more fully. The quality of our culture is found in the quality of our conversations. I love the quote by poet David Whyte: 'Asking beautiful questions in unbeautiful moments is one of the great disciplines of a human life.' It is in these more challenging moments that our true values show themselves.

See debate as a professional responsibility and skill.
How do we make the best 'right' decision if we haven't debated the best approach? It's not conflict, it's constructive analysis and professional exploration. AND, it's not personal.

Balance serious with fun.
Life is too short not to enjoy the company of those we work closely with.

Speak with kindness and courage.
Ditto.

Dialogue, not monologue.
Voice and contribution, courage and kindness. When all of that is mixed together we have a potent recipe to apply to any situation.

Synthesise the discussion.
Elevate our collective thinking by synthesising our perspectives rather than having them sit as separate ideas. This is co-creation.

Connect with the head and the heart.
We need both strategy and culture, results and relationships. Let's aim for extraordinary in both, not mediocrity in either.

Speak often of each other's leadership strengths.
Honouring each other by shining a light on the diverse strengths we all have deepens our bonds and ensures we are all seen and valued.

Speak openly and candidly of our own and each other's leadership stretch.
Safety and stretch, courage and vulnerability. These are the hallmarks of leaders who are willing to grow and improve. If we are not open to feedback on our growth areas, why should others be?

Of course there are others. Others that are more pertinent to you and your team. Your context matters. Where are the inspirational and aspirational places you want to go with your team? Name them to frame them into action. How do you build your capacity to do just that?

So now you are on the way to have a spicy guacamole of high performance as your guiding principles, rather than the strasbourg and sauce white sandwich of mediocrity.

Love to see what your Team Manifesto looks like. Please send it through to me!