3 min read

Create behavioural norms for your remote team

September 21, 2021

bronze statue holding scales

Timeframe: 1 hour (you’ll spend much more than an hour in side conversations trying to keep the peace if you don’t sit down as a group right at the start)

Number of people: Ideally the whole team

Facilitator: Anyone in the team, usually the team lead


  • A video-call so you can all see and hear each other.
  • A digital whiteboard or card-sorting tool - Trello, Miro or CoachBot. 

(CoachBot is ideal since it has an interactive digital session designed to coach the team while having exactly this conversation. If you don’t have access to CoachBot, you can use Miro or Trello with this facilitation guide.)

Step 1: The worst things we could do

(10 mins)


Ask everyone to consider this question:

Within our team's new working environment, what are the worst ways we could behave?


Answers could range from serious things that compromise the work of the team (e.g. we stop asking for help when we need it or we miss deadlines) through to smaller things (e.g. missing people's birthdays or losing out on the casual chats that we enjoy in the office.)


Give the team 5 minutes to come up with as many answers as they like. Then, when the time is up, ask people to share their answers.

Facilitator tips:

  • If people are stumped for ideas, encourage them to share anything they think of, even if it feels trivial. Ask for thoughts around topics: punctuality, asking others for help, virtual meetings, giving feedback, making decisions, dealing with stress… 
  • Only if people are still stuck should you reframe the question as; For you personally, what are the worst ways we could interact as a virtual team?

Step 2: Discuss and group your answers

(20 mins)

Take it in turns to discuss your answers - why are they important to you and what would the impact be? Try to keep to approximately 3 minutes per person.


Start grouping people’s answers together in terms of themes and similarities. The screenshot shows how you do that in CoachBot. If you’re using Trello, group similar cards into columns. If you’re using Miro, drag similar ‘post-it’ notes together. 


Once they've been grouped, summarise each theme into a single statement. You should now have a collection of the worst ways a team can behave.

Facilitator tips:

  1. Prompt discussion by asking any vague statements to be clarified.
  2. Once themes start to emerge, ask participants whether they agree with where their own notes/cards are placed.
  3. One post-it note can have it's own theme if it can't be grouped.
  4. If finding one statement to encapsulate the theme is hard, perhaps those notes/cards don't really fit together as one theme and should be regrouped.


Group similar behaviours together

Step 3: Turn negatives into positives

(15 mins)


Turn each of the groups of negative statements into a positive commitment. For example if one of the themes is ‘Blame others for problems’ that might become ‘We seek to understand the full story before pointing the finger.’


Facilitator tips:

Make sure your behaviours are tangible and targeted to your team. Use language that you would use as a team everyday. For example;

Instead of We’re open and honest ➡️ We say what we think

Instead of We believe in accountability ➡️ We do as we say and we call each other out

Your behaviours will read more like a set of commitments in your own words and less like the manifesto of a sect.

It’s also important to remember, behaviours that aren’t specific enough are a lot harder to put into practice.


Step 4: Decide how you will check-in on these behaviours

You should now have a list of positive behaviours that will help you work well together. These are your team rules and it's important to let people know about them. Breaking one of these behaviours is not just bad form, it's one of the very worst behaviours for this team.


Decide how you remind yourselves of them. Here are some ideas:

  • Save them as your laptop background
  • Put them into the agenda of every team meeting
  • Consider making an acronym if that helps 
  • Take 5 minutes at the start of your team meetings to check in on how you feel you’re doing against them
  • Schedule a time to talk about the difference your rules have made — this could be at your next team meeting or you could arrange a meeting in a months time.

See a CoachBot Behaviours session in action here.

Download the Manager's Guide to Remote Working Handbook

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