Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage, because it’s empowering and rare. Organisations are beginning to recognise the importance of cultivating team competencies alongside leadership competencies. One way to create a positive workplace culture is to introduce team agreements to consciously improve how everyone works together as a team.
What are Team Agreements?
Team agreements are a set of guidelines everyone agrees to follow to make the team more effective. By sharing an understanding of how we expect everyone to behave, we can avoid misunderstandings and conflict. They help a team work together more effectively and cover things such as:
- how team members communicate with each other
- how decisions are made
- what is expected of each team member.
How do we create Team Agreements?
We recently delivered a workshop titled ‘Elevating the Team Experience’ that included facilitating their creation of a working agreement. It worked well for that team.
Yet each team is different. It’s a step-by-step process of gaining permission along the way, and should apply to most teams.
Opening the workshop with a participatory activity around behavioural preferences straight-away opened up some root causes of team friction.
The more we spoke about psychological safety, social sensitivity and conversational equality, it spotlighted one or two negative behaviour patterns evident around team interactions. Comparing examples of dysfunctional behaviour with more cohesive team attributes revealed more pain points.
An accumulation of lots of little things can sabotage trust and lead to defensiveness and unwillingness to work together. A skilled facilitator can work either on improving behaviours or, at a more advanced level, establish norms around organisation values.
For example, if we discover meetings are problematic, we can compile a Meetings Protocol. Based on input from the team, their list might look like this:
- Start and end meetings on time.
- Stay on subject; stay on task.
- One person talks at a time.
- No repeat of info already discussed or voted on.
- All ideas are valid.
- Listen with an open mind before you speak.
- Differences of opinion are natural and useful.
- Don’t be afraid of offending people.
- Camera is on during online meetings.
- Mobile phones are off or on silent.
If email is a source of friction, we can first list pet peeves:
– Unrealistic demands – everything is urgent
– No greeting, using name only
– Assuming you will do a task without please and thank you
– Not changing the subject-line when the topic changes
– Long paragraphs – not enough white space
Then turn it around with the new, improved behaviours:
– Acknowledge a request with “Done” or “Will do”.
– Know when to pick up the phone
– Don’t “reply all” or “cc:” all unnecessarily . . . and so on.
Establishing team norms relative to organisation values may be possible at the initial session, or depending on the current emotional intelligence of the team, perhaps better left to a subsequent session.
To arrive at a consensus, the facilitator may lead a group activity using a number of index cards, each displaying the wording of one of the agreements. The team can agree either to adopt or revise the wording to make it more acceptable.
A skilled Brainpower facilitator can help your team navigate this process.
- Your team co-creates the agreements using a facilitated process; (it’s not done by the leader with the team absent).
- Make the agreements visible in the workplace to remind people.
- These agreements are a living document. Plan periodic review, at least annually, so you can refine the wording and rule out any unintended consequences.
- Team members can gently keep their colleagues accountable if they stray from the agreement.
5. Use when onboarding new team members.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
How about this as a fresh idea? Schedule a Co-creating a Team Working Agreement session in either Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne Canberra or Perth or regional Australia. Contact Brainpower Training now to find out availability and how we can customise it to your specific needs +61 452 089 323. Visit our web page.