Setting Team Ground Rules

I am looking for the best ground rules for a team that is coming together for the first time to discuss better recognition programs.

The Team Doc Says…

By understanding our values and assessing our behaviors, we can create a “safe environment” where people are comfortable speaking freely about their opinions, ideas and feelings in a team.

And by identifying how we will interact with each other, team members recognize the importance of understanding the individual needs of others.

That's why team ground rules are important to the functioning of any team.

The key to remember is that team ground rules must reflect the norms or expected behavior of team members.

They are the definition of “how we behave together” in this team.

That said, there are a variety of team ground rules that could be acceptable for your team.

If you have a core set of ground rules that are used in your organization, that is the list you should start with.

Team members should be allowed to accept (or not accept) each of those as items they want to embrace for their team.

If you are starting from scratch, begin with what the team members' value.

What is important to them in regards to acceptable team behavior?

Your best bet is to brainstorm a list and then talk through each item to ensure each team member has a clear understanding and can abide by that behavior norm.

When you finalize your list, get confirmation from each member by having them raise their hand to physically acknowledge they agree to abide by the group behaviors.

So here are some ideas for you if you need to seed your list. These are team ground rules I've seen teams embrace.

  • Start the meeting on time
  • Have a prepared agenda with an objective and expected outcomes
  • End the meeting on time
  • Parking lot discussion items that don't relate to this meeting's objective
  • Complete action items as committed
  • One person speaks at a time
  • All team members are equals
  • Leave rank at the door
  • Address conflict by dealing with the issue not the person
  • Turn of cell phones / pagers
  • Notify the team in advance if you will be absent
  • Listen actively
  • Be a participant, not a lurker
  • What's said in the room, stays in the room.
  • Have fun, but not at the expense of someone else's feelings.
  • Be present, both physically and mentally.

That should get you started.

One other thing you'll want to consider is setting up a team member code of conduct.

About Denise O'Berry

Denise O'Berry is President of The Small Business Edge Corp, a small business consulting firm. A small business owner since 1996, Denise understands the challenges facing small business. She's lived them herself and helped hundreds of clients work through the frustrations, fears, and joys of owning a small business. Denise is the author of Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success, a practical guide about keeping the cash in your business - where it belongs. Find more resources and tips at deniseoberry.com and askteamdoc.com