Leaders: Got Misbehaving Employees?

Leaders often feel frustrated by team member’s behaviours that don’t align with their expectations.


Leaders: Got Misbehaving Employees?

7 “team norms” to bring to the table for maximum results

As a leader, how do you expect your employees to behave on a daily basis?

Leaders often feel frustrated by team member’s behaviours that don’t align with their expectations.

The problem is that these expectations are often only implied, and therefore not explicit to employees.

Consequently, you’re probably not seeing the behaviours you seek. In fact, you may be seeing the exact opposite.

Timeliness is not a virtue (well, not to everyone)

For example, let’s say you hold a regular team meeting at 9 a.m. every Wednesday.

Your expectation is that the meeting starts at 9 a.m.—that is, everyone should be seated and ready to get down to business. But what time do people actually arrive? If you’re like a lot of leaders, you see employees only beginning to trickle in at 9 a.m. By the time they’re all present, it’s probably 9:10 a.m.

You may think that, because timeliness is a virtue, everyone should inherently know they need to be on time, and behave accordingly.

But that’s not a realistic expectation—because not everybody thinks the way you do.

And so, in this case, the team norm becomes less about “being in the board room at 9 a.m.” and more about “arrive as close to 9 a.m. as you can...nobody is going to call you on it.”

Create team norms

To prompt everyone to behave according to your expectations, you need to do two things:

  1. Stop expecting employees to be mind readers; and
  2. Create an explicit list of helpful team norms that everyone can agree and reasonably act upon.

Here are seven team norms you can incorporate into your own organizational culture, helping to guide employee behavior and create a greater sense of cohesion:

  1. We always bring our “A” game. Employees are expected to come to meetings on time, and to come prepared.
  2. We value each others’ time. In addition to respecting meeting times, individuals should do their utmost to work within other people’s deadlines.
  3. We always assume positive intent. As humans, we are inclined to sometimes read negative intent into somebody’s innocuous comments. Instead, employees should automatically assume that “this person is not criticizing me; they are sharing their insight with me to make things better.” When all team members assume positive intent, this tends to de-escalate contentious meetings or tense situations.
  4. We speak our truth face-to-face. All team members are strongly encouraged to handle conflict directly with the involved parties, and not to gossip or complain behind each other’s backs.
  5. “80% agreement, 100% commitment.” Say you are discussing an overall direction or goal with 10 people in a meeting. Eight are in agreement, while two are not. The 80/100 norm acknowledges that while 20% may not be on board, they are expected to not speak negatively about the team or that decision outside of that meeting. In other words, there should be no “meetings after the meeting.”
  6. We never implement a process without seeking input from the end users. If your team is to make changes to a process or product, ensure your team norm is to consult with end users so there are no unintended consequences.
  7. We hold each other accountable. To ensure your team delivers on their group and individual commitments, each person is expected to accountable for themselves and for others. This lessens the “accountability burden” for the manager, placing it squarely on the shoulders of all team members. In effect, this creates a much healthier mindset between employees and managers, transforming the relationship from parenting to partnering.

Don’t imply; be explicit, and make your expectations into team norms known far and wide!

However, there is one more thing you need to do to make this work.

Walk the talk

One of the most difficult—but absolutely necessary—things leaders must do is model the behaviour they ask of their teams.

Why? If employees don’t see their leaders stand up and lead by example, employees will feel less engaged—and be less willing to do their best work.

When people see you trying to model the behaviour you ask of them, they will give you points for your intent and effort.

Moreover, the fact that you initiate a change in your own behaviour, reflect on it and even show some vulnerability to your team will create a greater sense of “we’re trying to be better together.”

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