Well, I’m not necessarily a rule-follower (just ask my friends and family), but I really do like to get things done. So, in an effort to get lots of things done, I have to break a few rules and follow a few, too! I’m a fan of order, but baseless, robotic rules don’t quite cut it for me.

One of things I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about and working on is creating group norms. It goes something like this:

“We need to create a set of group norms that come from us. These are expectations and behaviors that, if followed, will allow us to work collaboratively together…”

Note to reader: So, by now, I’ve completely nodded off…which is probably against every group norm ever invented.

Then the groups go on and create norms that might look and sound something like these:
“We agree to accept each other’s ideas and respect opinions that might be contrary to our own.”

“We agree to start our meetings on time and end them on time.”

“We agree to stay true to our agenda and use a timekeeper to wisely use our time.”

Blah, blah, blah!

In fact, I find that the more a group talks about having norms, the less they have! Many weak leaders use “reviewing norms” as a front for their weak leadership…as if having norms means that people will follow norms and act professionally.

Very norm-driven groups I’ve worked with spend 10-30 minutes reviewing the norms (gag!) and then proceed to text during the meeting, answer emails during the meeting, miss meetings because they’re not much of a priority, and over-talk about things that could have been dealt with by an office assistant or secretary!

What I’d like to say to weak leaders is, “Have professional standards for your staff and get them working on important tasks and you won’t need norms.”

So here’s what I propose: We make meetings focused on getting things done. You know, doing things like THE WORK we so oftentimes just talk about!

If I were the queen of the universe, what I would say at my next meeting is something like this: “Guys and gals, when you come to our meetings, come ready to work on _____ and _____. We are going to avoid talking about things that are unrelated to ______ and ______ because those are your highest priorities as professional teachers right now. I would be happy to discuss with you all after the session any disagreements or concerns that you have, but we will only address that after we’ve done this work. At the end of our session, I’m going to have each group share out what they’ve done in relation to finishing up _______ and ______ and then we’ll set our work focus for our next meeting. My expectation is that we will have finished ______ and _____ by 10:50 this morning. Are there any questions on how we’ll go about working on ______ and ______?

What we’ve done here is set a tone of in-control leadership and a focus on TASKS and DOING THINGS, not just talking about things. Schools don’t lack growth because they don’t talk about things enough, but because they don’t do the things they talk about.

Your team meeting success is not built from group norms – those are guidelines that help to keep focus and on-track work flowing. They are designed to get you set up to get the work going, the norms are not the work.