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The Norms that Set Us Apart

By: Karen Mancini


In the book “Explaining Norms” (Brennan, Eriksson, Goodin, and Southwood), the authors state “Norms are ubiquitous in social life. Every time we enter a room, open our mouths to speak, walk down the street, conduct a meeting, play a game of cards, write an email, or wage a war, norms are in play.” Every group has certain norms and behaviors that help define it and guide its actions, although these are largely unspoken and take time to develop. Given the importance of norms in shaping a company’s culture, there is real value in identifying, validating, and celebrating the norms of a successful organization.

Norm noun: “…a principle of right action binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide, control, or regulate proper and acceptable behavior.”


The SEI Boston team has spent some time doing just that – talking about the norms we feel define us as an organization and contribute to our success. We realized that the norms we value, simply put, support our goal for SEI to be the first choice for prospective candidates, clients, and our own consultants. The output of our discussion was not only inspiring to the whole team but also serves as a great introduction for potential candidates as they consider a career with SEI. We distilled our understanding down to six key norms:

Think and Act Like A Shareholder: SEI is proud of our unique employee-ownership model. We are keenly aware that building a business takes courage, passion, and determination; we never take our foot off the gas.  When we think and act like shareholders, we share goals to deepen our relationships with clients and use our shared network to grow our business. Activities such as business development and recruiting are shared across consultants as part of our flat organizational structure. Who knows better what our clients need than those who have been working side by side with them on their most strategic projects?

Be an Advocate: Whether you’ve been at SEI for 1 day, 6 months, or 10 years, you come to work every day knowing that our team is an extension of your family. This company was founded on the principle that you will work alongside people you like, with whom you have common aspirations, and whom you respect personally and professionally. You are part of an organization where we collectively work to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive in our operations, management, and hiring. We deliberately focus on overcoming implicit bias against age, gender, racial identity, and sexual orientation. You are a voice in the process of sourcing, interviewing, and hiring high performing individuals into our team, and your input is both appreciated and required. Our strength comes from our collaboration – “we” is always preferable to “I”.

Invest in Personal Growth: To spur continuous personal growth, SEI removes the red tape or barriers when it comes to putting ourselves out there or, as we affectionately call it, “playing in traffic”.  It challenges us to connect with our clients, our network, each other, and our communities, to discover new opportunities and continuously grow our skills and experience. We’re in charge of our own careers and have a wealth of resources both within and outside of SEI to augment the many sources of continuous learning.  In the rapidly changing worlds of our clients, staying on top of the latest trends and technologies is required. Those of us drawn to SEI thrive on commitment to lifelong learning, and that’s why we love consulting!

Stay Engaged: Our model is anchored by the knowledge that everyone here is ready and willing to go above and beyond – for our clients, for our business, and for each other. When we stay engaged, we learn, we build, and we prosper.

Be a Connector: Collective value is at the heart of everything we do. At SEI we pride ourselves on being connectors. That means putting ourselves out there every day, collaborating with our colleagues, clients, and networks, and knowing where to go to get the answers.  Whether in support of our clients’ projects, our consultants’ development, or growing our business, we are always asking “How can I help?”

Be Aware, Be Present: In order to give 100% every day, we must always be aware and present.  Active listening is critical to understanding clients’ needs, and anticipating, addressing, and supporting evolving situations. It also ensures that we treat each other with the care and respect that is essential and required to maintain our success.

At SEI, hard skills are table stakes – you get a seat at the interview table because of them.  What sets our culture apart is the level of trust and respect that we have for one another. We support each other locally and across all 10 offices nationwide.  When we keep these norms and behaviors top of mind, we naturally build and maintain a first-class organization, ready to tackle our clients’ thorniest challenges and most strategic initiatives right alongside them. Through peer accountability, we support, challenge, and inspire each other, dedicated to our shared goal of giving our clients access to a broad wealth of expertise in our collaborative culture.

Our behavioral norms – this is SEI and how we aim to standout as first choice among clients, candidates, and current and future shareholders.


Karen Mancini


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