Strategy guide:
Relationships and social norms

A few notes before getting started

Your team’s structure
This document is intended to be used by teams working to design and implement collective leadership. It is imperative that the team model collective leadership during the design and implementation process. We suggest forming a leadership team of educators to work through the big questions and important tasks below. The team should be comprised of educators in various roles with diverse perspectives. The group must be transparent and regularly consider ways to scale collective leadership beyond the leadership team and include an increasing number of people in the process. 

The framework’s structure
The framework is divided into three parts: Understanding why, Designing how, and Implementing the plan. Each part has two areas of focus: “Big questions” and “Important tasks.” Answering the “Big questions” will involve intense study and open discussion. We recommend that you or your team come to decision points on each big question before moving to “Important tasks.” You can download these resources by clicking on the button below each part of the strategy framework. Scroll further to access additional background resources and research to support your work.

Resources and guides
The “Big questions” and “Important tasks” include valuable resources or guides. We have annotated these resources and guides to save you time selecting the best information for your context. Remember, these resources are intended as a starting point. Part of the process will be adaptation to meet your local needs, context, and goals.

Strategy Guide

1. Understanding your team’s why


Relationships and social norms can be tricky in a professional setting. Some people are more likely to understand the need for trusting relationships than others. And others, rightly so, are very clear that professional colleagues are not their personal friends. Yet even in the professional context, relationships and social norms matter because they can bolster or limit the degree to which strong collaboration occurs.


Goal: Establish a theory of action

What do you need to learn from the staff about the relationships and social norms that are needed for strong collaboration? What questions do you have about how relationships and social norms impact collaboration, and how will answers to those questions help you create a plan of action to address any issues that are identified?


Big Questions
  • Think of a time when strong relationships supported efforts at professional collaboration around a challenging issue. If possible, think of a time when you engaged in strong collaboration even though you may not have liked the other person/people.
    • What was it about those relationships that made you feel safe to engage with the group?
    • What social norms were in place?
    • How did the group handle divergent perspectives and opinions?
    • How were those resolved?
    • What skills did the group have and employ to be able to disagree yet come to an agreement about how to proceed?
    • To what degree does the current climate at your school align with what was described above?
  • How might stronger relationships, social norms, and collaboration benefit educators (administrators and teachers) and students in your school?
  • What impact might strengthening relationships, social norms, and collaboration have on your efforts to address issues of diversity, equity, and cultural competence?
  • What is your theory of action for how your team can develop or strengthen relationships, social norms, and collaboration?

Important Tasks

Discuss why it is important to your team and for your context to strengthen relationships and social norms for collaboration at your school. How might students and your school community benefit from strengthened relationships and social norms.

Collect and discuss information about the questions above with your team. From that data, determine what the biggest challenge or barrier is to strengthening your school’s relationships and social norms for collaboration. Be sure to focus on challenges and barriers that are within your realm of control.

Discuss why that barrier exists. Brainstorm ideas for how your team might address that barrier. Select one approach to addressing the barrier. Your team will use this to create a theory of action about how addressing that barrier will impact the school.

Develop a theory of action about how to address the barrier and take your schools from where you are to where you would like to be relative to relationships and social norms for collaboration.



Connect and collaborate
Teams frequently struggle with developing a theory of action. Remember to articulate your goal and identify the problem of practice before developing the theory of action.

Need help crafting a theory of action?


2. Designing your team’s how


Are you ready to create a plan for how your team will strengthen relationships and social norms for strong collaboration? Remember that having relationships and social norms for strong collaboration will help your team avoid friction.


Goal: Prepare to lead action

What will you take on first? Who should be involved? What is the timeline?  How will you measure success?


Big Questions
  • By collecting information and developing a theory of action, your team will have a clearer sense of how an ideal state of relationships and social norms for strong collaboration should look.  Based on this, what are your best first, second, and third steps to achieving this ideal?
  • How might your team be explicit and transparent about the necessary shifts that must be made to create stronger relationships and social norms for collaboration? What is the plan for communicating what these shifts involve and how to go about making them? (Hint: Revisit the change matrix for clues to all the components that should be considered to impact change, such as, such as vision and strategy, supportive administration, capacity and resources, and so on.)
  • How will the team support administrators and teachers as they become vulnerable and work toward stronger relationships and social norms for collaboration?
  • What is our timeline for this first effort?
  • How will we know when we have made progress?

Important Tasks

Review any or all of the following resources to learn more about effective teams.

Identify an idea or approach that your team would like to test either from the reading above or from some other source. The idea chose should align with your team’s vision for collective leadership and address an identified need from a self-assessment.

Complete the Purpose Map to set the vision, identify the people who should be involved, and create the initial action plan for testing your team’s idea. For ideas about how to design and implement a pilot, check out the structure and resources in this micro-credential or contact CTQ.

Complete and use an action timeline tool like the one below to clearly articulate what will get done by whom and how the team will know that you have been successful.

Is your team interested in support for using these tools? Do you need hard copies?




3. Implementing your team’s plan


Now, that the team has articulated the why and how for strengthening relationships and social norms for strong collaboration, it is time to implement the plan.

What does your team need to do to implement and learn from the plan?

The implementation phase of the work is about much more than carrying out the components of your team’s plan. In order to ascertain the effectiveness of the plan, data must be collected for evaluation. It’s helpful to remind yourself of your original goals as you prepare to gather the feedback needed.


Goal: Launch your team’s test, gather data, and study the results

Once the test is underway, gather the data needed to answer your burning questions. Analyze the data and results of your initiative. Decide whether your team wants to revisit supportive administration or move on to another condition.


Big Questions
  • How will your team create and maintain a safe environment for those involved to provide honest feedback?
  • What feedback is needed from those involved in this effort?
  • How will that feedback be used to make adjustments along the way?

Important Tasks

Implement the plan for how your school will strengthen relationships and social norms for strong collaboration. 

Collect data from participants about progress made relative to strengthening relationships and social norms for strong collaboration.

Create a process for how your team will respond to the data/feedback provided.



Want assistance measuring the impact of your efforts?



CTQ’s tools

Understanding your team’s why
1. Establishing a Theory of Action

Designing your team’s how
2. Purpose map
3. Action timeline

Implementing your team’s plan
5. Impact assessment