Norm-setting: what is it, why do it, & a free norms menu

I’d be willing to bet that we’ve all been in a meeting at one point or another where…

… a few colleagues get into a heated debate, or

…everybody clams up and disengages, or

…the whole damn thing go off the rails entirely.

Any of those sound familiar? If so, there’s a good chance norm-setting was the step that got skipped.

Norm-setting is a way to set the tone for a meeting, especially when the topic is sensitive or difficult in any way. It gets everyone on the same page about how to engage with one another. It is a simple step that can really transform a meeting!

To help you get started with norm-setting, here’s a free “menu” of norms to choose from. I’ve gathered them up over the years from a variety of settings– a few here, a few there– and compiled the memorable ones into this list.

Choosing norms for a session or for a workplace is most effective when it is done collaboratively. People buy in when they have a voice in the process. The norms menu here has a few questions for you and your team to think on together as you go through your collaborative norm-setting process.


  • Set aside dedicated time for norm-setting (~10-15m first time; 2-5 minutes for subsequent times)
  • Put norm-setting on the agenda so folks know it is a priority
  • Set norms collaboratively as a team, not in isolation
  • Don’t skip the last step! Agree upon how norms-violations get addressed.

Are there any norms you’ve heard of that we left off the list? Let us know in the comments!

Download your free resource here

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