In Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, “All the children are above average.” It turns out that many of your employees believe the same about themselves. And yet somehow, you know that’s not quite true.
I’ve seen this effect occur when I work with team’s on their norms. Team norms are simple behavioral guidelines that all members promise to follow and support. A norm can be as simple as “When I have a problem with a coworker, I discuss it with that person and only that person.” Groups usually have between four and eight norms.
When I’ve helped a team develop its norms and later get called back to do more work, I like to check in on how the norms are working out. Using a simple survey, I ask people to rate the team’s performance on each norm.
Once they’ve completed round one, they take the survey again. This time I ask members to rate their own performance on the norm.
When I tally the results, it never fails that team members think they are doing better at supporting the norms than the team as a whole is doing. Apparently everyone really is above average.
If your team members can’t see their own contributions to the problems and accept at least partial responsibility, it will be nearly impossible to address those concerns. There are three things you can do to help people see reality.
Provide regular and honest feedback
In the absence of feedback, your employees will make up their own stories about how they are doing. Some will see themselves more favorably than their behavior warrants. Others will see themselves as worse. Either is a problem. You want people to have an accurate picture. A manager’s most important job is to provide that feedback.
Collect and share feedback from peers
While you may provide ample, high-quality feedback; some of your employees won’t believe or value it. After all, bosses are clueless, right? In those cases, teach employees to provide feedback to each other and build an atmosphere where people use those skills. In some cases, you might even consider a more formal 360 degree review process.
Call out violations when they occur
Finally, if you established expectations, you ought to enforce them. When people aren’t living up to the promises they made, point it out. Remind them of the norms. Of course, it helps when you also reinforce people who are keeping their promises.
Let me help
If your team doesn’t have norms, I’d be happy to help you establish them. Also, I can help you build an environment in which feedback flows more freely. Use the link below to get in touch, and we’ll discuss your situation.
Image credit: David Goehring