The Reflection Pool

5 Meeting Norms You Need

Photo Credit: notsogoodphotography via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: notsogoodphotography via Compfight cc

We work in principal learning teams (PLT) in our district to further our professional learning.  Our team is made up of eight principals and vice-principals from five schools. Over three years, we have worked hard to build trust and now have a respectful working relationship where we can challenge and support each others’ learning.

A key component to our success was creating and committing to meeting norms. Once we had established our team’s purpose, these norms emerged.

  1. We will collaborate not compete.  Too often in education, people feel that they are in competition with colleagues for recognition and rewards.  There is a fear that if someone else looks good, then you look bad. It was important to emphasize that we are all in this together.  We need to share our knowledge and expertise.  When one of us looks good, everyone looks good!
  2. We will participate openly and listen actively.  Listening is the most important communication skill.  We are committed to learning to listen with all senses engaged without being focussed on what we plan to say next.  By paying attention to others and being “in the moment”, we know that our honest participation follows naturally.
  3. We will be engaged in the discussion.  This is one of those norms that says you can’t just sit back and check your email.  One way we achieve this is by planning our agendas carefully so that each component is of great interest to all of us, and everyone has an active role. 
  4. We understand that disagreement is meant to create intellectual debate for the purpose of professional growth.  Cognitive dissonance is essential for learning.  It is often quite uncomfortable, however, so we go out of our way to avoid it.  Our PLT has accepted that it’s OK to be uncomfortable for the purpose of learning.  And we disagree with respect.
  5. We start every meeting with a “Brag and Drag”.  Our district uses this technique from Restorative Justice practices.  We go around the table, and each person shares a “brag” (something great) and a “drag” (not so great) from their life.  It can be personal or professional. It is a great way to get to know others better, and it builds trust.  Every member has the right to pass if they wish, but on our team, no one ever does.

What norms does your team use? Are they effective? Do they reflect your purpose?

6 thoughts on “5 Meeting Norms You Need

  1. Thank you for sharing the norms from your PLT. I appreciate knowing how other groups in our district are learning together. Some of these norms reflect the norms of our PLT while others differ. Can you expand on “and we disagree with respect”?

  2. Susan-

    I appreciated seeing the norms from your PLT. We created norms as an administrative council, which is made up of all principals (9) and then some key central office people. It was like drafting a marriage contract and took way too long. I like the directness and relatively short list that your team created! Makes me want to be a part of the team!

    1. Thanks for the comment – I appreciate you taking the time. I find that simple is best, but these norms still took some time to come up with and they changed over time. We spent a good amount of time building trust before the norms were finalized. I think regular review is always helpful.

  3. Sue, I really appreciated this blog post even though I’m not part of a PLT, as I still have many team meetings, and I think that these norms could be beneficial for all of them. I love how your team has created an environment where you can learn and grow together. I’m curious how you decided on these meeting norms? What hurdles (if any) did you face along the way? How would you recommend that teachers go about creating norms for their own teams?

    I work at a big school and have been part of many large teams. I would love to know more about the creation of these meeting norms as I explore some options with some different teams. Thanks for the help!


    1. Aviva, I believe that building trust is an essential element for any team. That comes over time, especially if members don’t know each other very well. For us, the first step in deciding on norms was identifying what our purpose was in meeting and what we wanted to accomplish. Also, you need to keep it simple. You can find examples of different norms on line and then adjust as needed.

      Thank you for commenting – always appreciate your ideas!

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