The Power of Working Agreements
September 29, 2021
4 minute read – When we work with leaders and teams, one of the most effective practices we use is working agreements. Often, people have unspoken expectations for their interactions with others, and when these expectations aren’t met, it can create unnecessary frustrations or inefficiencies. A solution to combat this issue is to create a set of agreements on how people will work together for a meeting, as a team, in a manager/direct report relationship, etc. These working agreements are part of a living document that can be modified and adjusted over time and should include input from everyone.
The power of working agreements is incredible. It not only helps create clarity for all parties involved about what is expected of them, but gains buy-in as every person involved is part of creating and accepting the working agreements. This process, and the agreements themselves, produce greater accountability as individuals have a framework for how to show up, give in-the-moment feedback, and provide assessments to others.
Many have been in meetings where people are multi-tasking and not fully tuned into the discussion. The costs of that are obvious:
- Ineffective meetings that do not meet success measures and objectives
- Lack of critical thinking and exchanges of ideas
- Time wasted having to rehash decisions and information over and over
- Unintentional messages that the subject matter is not important
- Contagious disengagement of other participants
Now imagine being in a meeting where there is an agreement and accountability of staying present. As this agreement becomes habit, the effectiveness of the meeting increases, and the sharing of information is enhanced. It also gives meeting participants permission and makes it easier to call on each other if they are multi-tasking and not living up to the agreements. A quick review in the beginning helps remind everyone of the expectations, and a review in the end gives time to reflect on how they showed up in light of the working agreements.
Here are a few more common working agreements used among teams in the current hybrid work environment:
- Preferred method of communication – the number of communication channels has increased because of virtual and hybrid environments. This means that important information can be missed if a leader is not constantly checking all channels. Setting an agreement around the type of information and preferred channels helps ensure that leaders don’t miss key information.
- Use video – you could not hide your face from others when working in the office, why do it while working remotely? Having the agreement to use your video when communicating helps not only with keeping employee engagement but also allows for more direct and effective communication.
- Hold yourself and others accountable for project roles and tasks – holding yourself and your peers accountable ensures that everyone on the team is effectively playing their role to get the job done.
- Adhere to deadlines – when the team has buy-in on a timeline it means taking deadlines seriously and keeping projects and initiatives on track. In instances where a deadline can’t be reached, be sure to communicate ahead of time and with the right people to avoid unintended messages that the deadline was not important.
- Speak up – when discussing projects and initiatives, it’s important to speak up about any relevant concerns regarding decisions and directions. Make sure to seek full clarity on the project objectives and expectations. Getting this out in the open and addressed will help the team stay aligned.
Again, the concept of working agreements is simple. Yet, as many have found, the power of them is immense whether you are using them for big planning meetings or with smaller teams.