Creating and following team working agreements is a key characteristic of successful teams. Why? Because it increases the likelihood your team will meet or exceed its customers’ expectations.
In this article, you will learn how to facilitate and create team Work Agreements.
Productive teammates who have worked on successful teams with shared interests and common goals, already know Work Agreements work.
In those productive, effective teams all teammates “agreed” to work collaboratively while demonstrating the right attitudes and behaviors.
As a result, those teams succeeded, in part because they created and followed their team’s Work Agreements.
What Are Team Work 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.
There are two types of Work Agreements:
- A Process Agreement describes who will do what and the respective work methods they will use. This Agreement consequently defines roles and responsibilities, 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 striving for transparency in all interactions.
Between the two, all teamwork issues are suitable for team Work Agreements.
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. 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 Work Agreements happens in a team-building workshop. In this setting, the team leader and teammates willing discuss and agree on work behaviors. They intentionally use Work Agreements to resolve interpersonal or process issues that are hurting the team because they know it will help the team achieve their goals and function better together.
These People Came Together with Their Agreements
One year after their Work Agreements workshop, the team had completely turned around. During their workshop the year before, they had recommitted to their shared goals and created powerful Work Agreements to solve several team challenges.
After honoring their Work Agreements for a full year and tracking their results, they not only felt like a true team but had the data to prove it. In just a year, 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, but they were unhappy 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 & Why They Created Their Agreements
In their first team-building workshop, the team created two Work Agreements. Three months later, those Agreements let to a “Moment of Reason.”
I will explain what that means, but first, let me share their story chronologically.
Before any team-building workshop, as the facilitator, I first diagnose the team’s current performance level. That means using one of two methods.
- Administering a survey
- Interviewing teammates
With this team, I chose to do both.
First, I conducted a Team Perception Survey so I could understand how they assessed their current performance.
Teammate trust, one of 20 performance factors measured in the survey, came in low, just 3.13 out of a possible 7.00. From that measure, I knew things were pretty bad. We had our work cut out for us.
After studying the survey results, I then interviewed all nine teammates individually. During the interviews, I learned about several teamwork dysfunctions. A number of teammates commented about the tendency of several other teammates to “explode” when they became frustrated. I called that behavior:
Silent Volcano Dysfunction.
To clarify the pattern, 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 pattern before, too.
When the team saw this graphic, they knew it described their behavior. They realized and accepted that they, as a team, had to change.
Moreover, they were willing to address their differences to make it happen.
Consequently, they chose two topics for their Work Agreements:
- Lack of trust
- 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 always only have two choices as to how we respond to difficult situations: in an accountable way, or as a victim.
The team liked the Right Choice Model. 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. Their selected teamwork behaviors played an important role in helping them create two team Work Agreements.
Their first Work Agreement was a behavioral Agreement that addressed how they would 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.
I worked with them for two years.
Three months after the first workshop, I administered the second survey. The results already showed improvement. Teammate trust had increased from 3.13 to 3.90 – a decent-sized jump for just three months.
Seeing their growth made teammates even more motivated to continue teamwork improvement.
A Breakthrough “Moment of Reason” at the 3-Month Mark
In the second workshop, the team experienced a pivotal moment of accord 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 return to the minds of those who have been temporarily out of their right minds.
Their Moment of Reason changed the way these nine teammates treated and worked with each other.
About an hour into the workshop, the team fell back into their old way of interacting. They were once again 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 Work Agreements. They all read them. Then, one teammate said,
“We’ve already agreed how we were to address that issue, haven’t we?”
I replied, “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.”
In less than a minute, they agreed to recommit to their Work Agreements. It was their Moment of Reason.
It was a perfect example of how teammates, who are out of their minds, can move back into their right minds.
They made this shift quickly and easily, by remembering their team Work Agreements.
For the rest of the second workshop, the third workshop, and beyond, they never slipped back to their old ways.
As the third and fourth surveys showed, 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
A year after establishing their Work Agreements, the team presented the following results to their Senior Leadership Team.
- 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. Furthermore, their leaders and the team’s customers were also happy.
The team continued to improve and work together for another five years. They never returned to their old, dysfunctional ways.
Why Team Agreements Work
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 and every team grew and succeeded because of it.
Work Agreements work when teammates live and follow them.
It is not a matter of if conflict will happen, but when conflict happens among teammates.
This truth alone is enough justification for creating team Work Agreements.
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.
The Chevron team’s compelling story is a prime example of how Work Agreements help teams. But it is certainly not the only one.
This success can happen in your team, too.
Ready to Bring Team Agreements into Your Team?
Here are two excellent resources:
This guide provided a step-by-step approach to facilitate and create team Work Agreements. I is an essential tool for both team leaders and team-building facilitators.
This real-world training program includes:
- Training Manual – 100 comprehensive pages with step-by-step instructions and real-world examples
- Training Class – Online course with 2 hours of audio instruction from Dan Hogan, Certified Master Facilitator
- Reusable Templates Convenient Microsoft Word Document
These resources are more than enough to get you started incorporating team Work Agreements into your team.
As you do, you’ll soon discover their transformative power for yourself.
I can’t wait to see what you and your team achieve.
To Your Success, Dan Hogan