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Offset challenges with a team agreement

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

By Lee Polevoi

Even with the best of intentions, people sometimes have difficulty coalescing into an efficient, high-performing team. Challenges arise out of miscommunication or an unclear understanding about functions and goals. Many businesses address this issue by creating a team agreement that clarifies goals and establishes criteria for acceptable (and unacceptable) behavior.

The benefits of a strong team agreement include:

  • A foundation for the growth of trusting relationships
  • A way for team members to hold each other accountable, rather than making you the sole enforcer
  • A public declaration of what the team expects to achieve

This agreement can be drawn up at any time, but it may be particularly effective at the start of a new year or quarter or when a project is getting under way.

What goes into the agreement

The first step is crafting a short, one-paragraph mission statement, with an emphasis on desired values and behaviors. Team members should suggest wording and vote on what works best.

Next, agree on the team’s short- and long-term goals. What do we want to achieve, and how will we get there? Create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goals.

Discuss tasks and responsibilities, and determine who will assume the various roles on the team.

Designate a team leader for the project, and set up ground rules for:

  • Conducting meetings
  • Sharing information and communicating with each other
  • Making decisions
  • Resolving conflict

With a clearly written document in place, everyone knows what must be done and by whom. There’s less room for confusion or assumptions.

What to do with the agreement

When everyone has reviewed and agreed on the contents of the agreement, invite team members to sign the document. (This helps foster greater commitment.) Then make sure the team agreement is highly visible in the workplace. Post it in or near workstations, refer to it in project meetings, and use it to acknowledge milestones in the process.

A solid team agreement helps ensure that individuals working together are dedicated, responsible and accountable—sure-fire elements of a high-functioning team.

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