In today's Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business School Publishing (sign up here -- http://hbsp.ed4.net/prefcenter/signup.cfm?t=man&l=50163292&/), we are advised that if our team is in conflict, we should "focus on team norms.. . Use team norms to guide behavior."
This is great advice, and it really works! However, it depends upon your team already having norms in place. If you haven't done so yet, call a team meeting -- perhaps bring in lunch? -- and hash out the guidelines you all agree to follow as a team. Some ideas include:
1) we agree to decide most things by majority vote and highly critical things by collaboration
2) we agree to avoid side conversations in meetings
3) we agree to provide all members with meeting agendas 24 hours before meetings
4) we agree that when two members of our team are in conflict, the full team will work together to resolve it
5) we agree to discuss all ideas brought to the table, not discounting any until we've fully explored them
Work together as a team to determine group ground rules so that you and anyone on the team has something to refer back to when challenges arise. It is much more comfortable -- particularly for a very polite or a low-level person on the team -- to say, "hey guys, we agreed that we'd avoid side conversations in meetings; could we focus on our agenda now and then whatever is being discussed on the side can be brought to the full group?" than it is for that same person to say, "hey, stop interrupting, it's annoying!" Most likely, nothing will be said and the behavior will worsen.
What team norms does your team follow and how did you develop them?