Guided Team Meeting: Establishing Ground Rules

If you haven`t yet considered ground rules for your team, now might be a great time to do so. The idea of ground rules is to create safety by establishing a set of agreements on which everyone can depend. That way, you know what to expect from others and they know what to expect from you. Preparation for your team meeting requires a bit of homework from each person. Answer the following questions: What will I consistently do to contribute to a safe environment for the team? What will I hold myse

Sandy Roth and

Terry Goss

If you haven`t yet considered ground rules for your team, now might be a great time to do so. The idea of ground rules is to create safety by establishing a set of agreements on which everyone can depend. That way, you know what to expect from others and they know what to expect from you. Preparation for your team meeting requires a bit of homework from each person. Answer the following questions: What will I consistently do to contribute to a safe environment for the team? What will I hold myself accountable for, and encourage others to hold me accountable as well? What will I ask of others and what can they ask of me?

Ground rules can be very simple. Consider the following ideas to get you started:

- Each person is responsible for representing him or herself; therefore, I will represent myself and expect others to represent themselves as well.

- All problems belong to the group; therefore, I will inform my teammates on issues of relevance and importance to them.

- Each person is responsible for contributing to a safe environment; therefore, I will accept responsibility for my role in making our culture safe for others.

- Triangulation is the death of a team; therefore, I pledge to always go to the source.

- The first person to recognize a problem has the responsibility to raise it; therefore, I will be responsible for identifying and raising problems in a timely manner.

- There can be no sacred cows; therefore, I will honor my teammates right to raise any issue they believe to be relevant and important.

At your first "Ground Rules Meeting," each person is asked to write his or her statements of accountability on a large piece of paper (flip chart size is nice), and tape it to the wall with masking tape. Team members can "interview" each other to learn more about what was meant by a concept. Ask for examples of how the concept might work and ask how accountability might be established. Once every team member has had an opportunity to contribute, the ideas are recorded and copies of the statements are distributed to each team member. We advise you to let the ideas float around for a week or two, but no longer. During that time, look for opportunities when one or more of the ground rules might be helpful and times when you would be called upon to hold yourself accountable for a proposed idea. This is a good time to field test the proposals. Also, examine what statements of accountability others proposed and determine which are agreeable. Get yourself ready to participate in creating a common set of ground rules at the next meeting.

At the second ground rules meeting, you are ready to piece together your mutual agreements. This is a time for total honesty. If you aren`t confident about your agreement with a proposed idea, express your reservations rather than agree and let others down. Each team must formulate ground rules that fit their unique needs. You needn`t adopt any of those we have suggested above. Once you have agreed to a set of ground rules, post them in your meeting room and review them before each meeting. Hold yourselves accountable to your rules and resist making changes until you`ve had some opportunity to let them work for you.

We suggest that you review your ground rules at least once a year, or at any time a team member wishes to propose a change. This can be a challenging process, but the mere fact that you put forth the effort will go a long way to creating a safe environment. Please let us know how we can help you. We would enjoy hearing of your success!

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