A Guide To Team Agreements For High-Performing Teams – What They Are And How To Use Them

We’ve been having a lot of discussions lately with teams about team agreements and there seem to be two key issues for managers.

The first is that while each individual team member is clear about what they do, they’re not necessarily clear on how their role fits in with other team members or stakeholders. The second is the behaviours of each team member and how that affects their overall performance.

We encourage managers to have open discussions with their team about their behaviours. A person might be doing a really good job in terms of what they have to deliver, but it’s not just about delivering the task, it’s about how they deliver the task. 

You can listen to the podcast episode here or continue reading below. 

What are team agreements? 

Constructive team agreements are all about the behaviours and the way the team interacts with one another and stakeholders. In order for a team to be high performing, no matter their industry, they need to agree to uphold those behaviours throughout the day and week as a team.

By doing this, the roles and responsibilities of each team member are clearly outlined. It also makes things easier when it comes to making everyday decisions. It provides you with a solid framework which, overall, saves you time. And time is not something many companies or managers have nowadays. It means you can hit the ground running and be effective from day one.

Following is a rundown of what an effective team agreement might look like, and below is a link where you can download a guide to create your own effective team agreement.

Team agreements

Identifying what ‘good’ looks like 

Get your team together and have a discussion about it. Make a note of some of the behaviours you would be seeing if you were operating at a high-performing levels. How do you communicate? How do you interact with one another?

For example, think about the behaviours in relation to team meetings. How do you want your team to behave? How do they prepare themselves?

You might say it’s important to be on time and be fully present, to really listen. I (Jan) was in a senior leadership team meeting recently and when I started talking, people still had their laptops open. One of the senior leaders actually stopped the meeting and told everybody to close their laptop. It was great because it meant everybody was held accountable for their behaviour and to those agreements as a team.

Communication is key

Obviously, good communication is essential for any high-performing team. It’s important to think about how your team communicates and to agree on the language used by all team members. Above all else, it needs to be clear and respectful; everybody and every idea needs to be acknowledged.

Managing disagreements

Disagreements are natural in business and everyday life, but how you manage them as a team is what will set you apart from the rest.

So, how do you react as a team? Do you accept the differences in people? Do you acknowledge that diversity is a good thing? Do you congratulate people for voicing their opinion? Do you use ‘above the line’ language and behaviour? (We have a whole podcast and template on this here.)

Keep your stakeholders happy

It’s important to think about how you communicate with stakeholders too. How do you reach agreement around making commitments and holding each other to account? How will you do that and what language will you use with stakeholders?

Supporting your team

Team agreements aren't just about getting the job done or keeping stakeholders happy though. They are also about keeping the team happy and ensuring they have the support they need.

For example, will you check in on them at the end of each day?

We worked with a leadership team who did this. Because everybody was working long hours, they wanted to make sure that not a single senior leadership team member was left on their own. It encourages them to take a break, and not burn the midnight oil.

Pick your behaviours

So now that you know which areas to concentrate on, you need to list collective behaviours that you, as a team, will agree to use. Pick your behavioural key statements - around seven - that centre around how you behave and interact with one another. These will ensure your team’s behaviour is ‘on track’.

Off-track, on-track behaviour

If you wanted to take it one step further, you could create ‘off-track’ statements, so the opposite of each behaviour. For example, ‘on-track’ behaviour might be communicating any potential broken agreements at the first opportunity. Whereas ‘off-track’ behaviour would be putting off communicating a potential delay and letting the problem manifest. It’s a great way to focus the conversation around what non-constructive behaviour looks like.

It’s also a good idea to discuss calling each other out and holding people accountable. This is where the conversation gets juicy. If you see someone not sticking to the agreements in a team meeting, how will you approach it? Do you give each other permission to do so?

One team we’ve worked with have a word they use in these situations, almost like a safe, non-judgmental way of broaching the subject and shifting the behaviour. Another team uses different colour cards so if the meeting is getting too heated, they use the red card, et cetera. People will begin to self-correct and become more aware of their behaviour.

At the end of each session, sit down and do a quick review of your team agreements. Ask your team to self-reflect on how they behaved and how they thought everybody else behaved.

Once you’ve come up with your agreements, it’s a good idea to make them visible. Maybe put them in the main office area, or set them as part of an internal signature.

It starts with behaviour

We’ve noticed that all high-performing teams work so well because they have paid attention to the behaviours from the get go.

But, if you’re a people leader and you want to introduce this, you first need to be clear about why you’re doing so and what’s in it for your team members. If you can clearly convey that you want to create a team culture that works for everybody, your team will begin to work more effectively.

It also shows your commitment to your team’s wellbeing and is an effective team building activity that encourages every single team member to participate in.

So, we invite you to come up with your team agreements (click here to access our team agreement guide) and please do share it with us by sending an email to info@peopleleaders.com.au.

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