Creating and following team working agreements is a particularly important characteristic of a successful team. Why? Because it increases the likelihood, your team will meet or exceed its customers’ expectations.
In this article, you will learn how to facilitate, thus create, team working agreements.
Productive teammates already know these team work agreements are an effective teamwork characteristic.
Since they have worked on successful teams that had shared interests and common goals, they know work agreements work.
In short, those teammates “agreed” to work collaboratively while demonstrating the right attitudes and behaviors.
As a result, those teams succeed, in part, because they created and followed their team working agreements.
What Are Team Agreements?
A Work Agreement is a promise to transform non-productive work behavior. It is not a flimsy ground-rule. It is an emotionally mature work performance agreement.
Therefore, all teamwork issues are suitable for team working agreements. There are two types:
- A Process Agreement describes who will do what and the respective work methods. This agreement consequently defines roles and responsibilities plus interfaces, and procedures.
- A Behavioral Agreement describes how people will behave while they perform their tasks. This agreement defines how teammates will resolve difficult issues or interpersonal conflict. This agreement strives for transparency in all interactions.
A well-written work agreement starts with an Intention Statement. Here is a good example.
1. Each teammate will communicate their thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way.
Each Intention Statement will also have clarifications and/or conditions for acceptance statements. Here are some examples:
- We follow the spirit and intent of our company values.
- If a teammate is not communicating in an appropriate way, we will call it to their attention.
- We will give positive teammate reinforcement when we see and hear good communication.
Creating team working agreements happens in a team-building workshop. This is where the team leader and teammates discuss and agree on work behaviors because they know it will help the team.
Therefore, these agreements will resolve interpersonal or process issues that are hurting the team.
These People Came Together with Their Agreements
One year after creating their team work agreements, this team completely turned around. They had recommitted to their shared goals and were honoring their work agreements. As a result, they experienced:
- 78% increase in teammate trust
- 46% increase in mutual team member support
- 61% increase in complying with decisions
- Over $350,000 in savings.
This was a Field Operations team for Chevron in the Gulf of Mexico. They were responsible for supporting all the company’s offshore oil platforms.
Before I met them, they were competent, they were not happy, and they were far from productive. Worst of all, two-thirds of the team members were arrogant and aggressive.
They turned to me, Dan Hogan, for facilitative support.
How They Created Their Agreements and Why
In their first team-building workshop, they created two work agreements. Three months later, those agreements played a part in creating what I have called a “Moment of Reason.”
I will explain what that means, but first, let me share this story in chronological steps.
Before any team building workshop, the facilitator must diagnose the team’s current performance level.
There are two methods for conducting this assessment:
- administer a survey and
- interview teammates.
With this team, I did both.
First, I conducted a Team Performance Assessment Survey so I could understand how they assessed their current performance. After studying the results, I interviewed all nine teammates.
Teammate trust, one of the 20 performance factors measured, was 3.13 out of a possible 7.00. Pretty bad, huh?
During the interviews, I learned about several teamwork dysfunctions. One was about several teammates who would explode when they became frustrated. I call that behavior the….
Silent Volcano Dysfunction.
In the first workshop, I presented a Silent Volcano graphic illustration of their behavior. Take a moment and read it now. I bet you have seen this behavior.
When the team saw this graphic, they realized and accepted that they, as a team, had to change.
Moreover, they were willing to address their differences.
Consequently, They Chose Two Topics for Their Agreements:
- their lack of trust and
- how to become a successful self-managing team.
After they chose their first two topics, I presented the Right-Minded Choice Model.
The model teaches that we only have two choices on how to respond to difficult situations. One can respond in an accountable way or as a victim.
They liked this model because they believed it would help them resolve their two issues.
After a short discussion, they agreed to act and behave in an accountable way. Moreover, they actually agreed on specific behaviors from the Right-Minded Teamwork Attitudes & Behaviors list.
Consequently, those teamwork behaviors played an important role in helping them create two team working agreements.
One was a behavioral agreement that addressed how they will increase trust. The other was a process agreement to help them to succeed in becoming a self-managing team.
The team agreed to conduct follow-up team building workshops once every three months. They asked me to facilitate these workshops and to administer a new survey each time.
As a result, I worked with them for two years.
Three months after the first workshop, I administered the second survey. The results showed improvement. Teammate trust increased from 3.13 to 3.90, which is good for three months.
Teammates were even more motivated to continue teamwork improvement.
3 Months After Following Their Agreements a “Moment of Reason” Happened
In the second workshop, a pivotal moment revolved around their agreements. This collective teammate moment was a Moment of Reason.
A Moment of Reason is a shift in one’s mind.
It is a moment when sanity and good behavior returns to the mind of those who are for the moment out of their right minds.
This moment changed the way these nine teammates treated and worked with each other.
About an hour into the workshop, they fell back into their old way of interacting. They were arguing about something they had addressed three months earlier.
At one point, I was able to interrupt their bickering.
I asked them to pull out their team working agreements. They all read their work agreements. One teammate said,
“We’ve already agreed how to we were to address that issue, haven’t we?”
After that, I said, “Yes. Now, you only have two choices – be a victim or be accountable. You can argue and fight more, or you can recommit to your Work Agreements.”
Therefore, this became their Moment of Reason. In less than a minute, they agreed to recommit to their Work Agreements.
Above all, this is a good example of how teammates, who are out of their minds, can move back into their right minds.
They made this shift, this moving back if you will, by remembering their team working agreements.
Consequently, for the rest of the second workshop and the other workshops, they never slipped back to their old ways.
As you will see in the third and fourth surveys, the team continued to improve over the next six months.
Click to enlarge the graphics to see their survey results.
Results: 1 Year of Following Their Agreements
They presented the following results to their Senior Leadership Team.
Their survey results showed:
- a 45% total improvement in the 20 team performance factors in the survey
- a 78% increase in teammate trust
- a 46% increase in mutual support
- a 61% increase in complying with decisions
- Over US$350,000 in savings.
Finally, the teammates were happy and productive. Their leaders and the team’s customers were happy.
They continued to improve and work together for another five years. They never returned to their old, dysfunctional ways.
Justification for Creating Team Agreements Works
I facilitated over 500 teams in eight countries in my 35-year team-building career. I worked with many of those teams for several years. Every team created some kind of team work agreement. I assure you agreements work when teammates live and follow them.
I am confident you will agree with this statement.
It is not a matter of if conflict will happen, it is more a matter of when conflict happens among teammates.
This truth alone is enough justification for creating team working agreements.
Said a different way, it is far better to have work agreements in place before conflict happens. But even if your team is currently in conflict, it is never too late to create and follow work agreements.
This team story is an example of how work agreements help teams.
This success can happen in your team, too.
Ready to Bring Team Agreements into Your Team?
Here are two good resources:
This guide will show you how to facilitate and create team work agreements. As a result, it is for both team leaders and team building facilitators.
This is a real-world training that includes:
- Training Manual – Comprehensive 100 Pages
- Training Class – online course with 2 hours of audio instruction from Dan Hogan, Certified Master Facilitator
- Reusable Templates in Word Document
To Your Success, Dan Hogan