Ever leave a team meeting ready to rip your hair out? It happened to me last week.
It was a meeting that I attend regularly, with the same group of people who have known each other for some time. We’re familiar with each other, know what our roles are and what to expect of each other. Our meetings are usually constructive and respectful.
But at the meeting last week two guests were invited. The first had just started speaking when the second guest interjected with their own views.
It was all downhill from there.
It started a speaking competition. A race to be the person who spoke next and no one listens. A race where there are no winners and everybody loses.
No one on the team (including me) spoke up to clarify the expectations for the way we behave at our meetings. Our guests didn’t know because no one told them. As a result, we didn’t get to the key issues, ran out of time and had to set up another meeting. Everyone left frustrated, annoyed and in need of coffee, lots of coffee.
Two things struck me. One: how quickly 1 or 2 people can change the dynamic of an established team. And two, the importance of having clear expectations, direction and purpose for team meetings that keeps people working together on the same page.
Team meetings are essential for keeping people informed, solving problems, making decisions, monitoring performance against team objectives and creating collaboration. And yet for many team meetings, we turn up and launch into straight into the work without spending time on how we will work together. Creating a team charter is an effective way of focusing on the ‘how‘ and ensuring people are pulling together in the same direction. The key is to work through the different parts of the charter together in a collaborative way as a team rather than an instructive way. Write down the things you agree on and remind each other (and guests!) at the beginning of each meeting.
One organisation I work in, has their team charter printed on a poster and displayed on the board room wall. It’s a great way of ensuring that people are reminded of the charter every time they meet.
A team charter includes:
- Team purpose: it sounds self-evident, but what is the purpose of your team? Does everyone have the same understanding of what the team’s purpose is? How does the work of the team align with the vision of the organisation?
- Vision and values: what shared values are needed to guide your work and how you work with each other? A discussion on ‘how we work together’ clarifies expectations on standards for how the team will behave.
- People and roles: who are the members of your team? What roles do they have? Roles may include job titles along with group roles, such as helper, innovator, doer.
- Team processes: how will we make decisions? How will we organise to accomplish the work?
- Resources: Does the team have the resources, time, information, materials and technology to do it’s work?
- Needs and expectations: what does each member of the team need to be successful?
- Goals: what are the deliverables? How do we measure success?
- Authority and accountability: to whom is the team accountable? What is the team’s decision-making authority?
Meetings don’t have to be something you dread. Being clear about the direction, purpose and agreements on how you behave as a group, enable people to collaborate, debate the hard issues and achieve great outcomes.
So will you be brave enough to suggest constructing a team charter at your next meeting?