Have you wanted for a long time to address specific challenges of your group and make or sustain a change? The way your group operates each day is largely dependent on the standards they see around them. As a leader (or even a member) of a group, there is a lot you can do to raise these norms. Consider the following points:
1: Changing the standard changes expectations and performance
Some questions to consider:
- Do you know why there is no gum on the pavements of Singapore?
- Do you know why some teams release almost no defects, and others release hundreds?
- Do you know why you are quiet in a library?
The answer, common to the three questions, is because the standard and expectations have been clearly set by the environment, and to behave otherwise would stand out as unusual or unacceptable.
Sure, there are other factors such as posted rules and fines, but these rules are followed because avoiding them would be personally embarrassing. The standard you set as the leader of your group is the standard everyone else sees and one they will eventually rise or fall to.
2: What standards are you setting for your group?
Here are some examples to chew on:
- If you start your meetings late, people notice and might care less if they start their meetings late. They will also notice that they don’t have to be at your meeting on time.
- If you permit poor quality work to go to the customer, your staff members will notice and might lower their standard to yours. Of course, they won’t tell you that more poor quality work went out; that will be your surprise later.
- If you set deadlines without any thought to scope, estimates and risks, then that is the standard you are communicating to others to follow. Any deadline will do.
- If you keep organizational goals a secret, or hide the status of a project because it is in chaos, then that is the standard that is now acceptable. The standard is, “Don’t be crystal-clear about how the project is going, because no one else does that.” Well, at least until it is so late that a huge slip is unavoidable.
The opposite is also true. Good things that you are doing are probably reflected by good things your people are doing. Either take some credit for that, or at least realize that you can maintain this strength by maintaining your leadership behavior.
3: Design the organization you want, by example
Slowly but surely you can address the norms of the group without too much fanfare or drama. For example:
- If you want teams to collaborate and cooperate with each other, then raise the standard and demonstrate that.
- If you want predictable deadlines, then state your expectations for the thinking (planning) and data that goes into a predictable deadline and don’t accept anything else.
- If you are tired of getting calls from the customer about poor quality and slow responsiveness, then first demonstrate that you are responsive and quality-focused in your own work. Second, explain to your team what you want them to do, otherwise you might get the standard they see, or the standard they think you want because they don’t see anything else.
The bottom line:
- You are getting what you expect and tolerate.
- The people around you are largely, with exceptions, following the standard you set.
Your next steps:
- Pick one thing that you are frustrated with.
- Determine what you might be doing to demonstrate that standard.
- Change the way you behave; try the change on a small scale first.
- Explain clearly what you expect from others and why (be nice). The why is important so people know your reasoning and context.
- Demonstrate the new behavior for 60 days. Remember, you want to be seen as serious, otherwise you set a new standard of “flavor of the week,” and you don’t want that.
If you have questions or comments about this article, or would like to discuss your norm challenges, please contact us.[Forward this email to your boss! Subject: Here’s a cool trick for you] – quick link