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Section 6  Ground Rules for Teams

          Establishing ground rules for teams will minimize conflict and reduce the potential of the team becoming dysfunctional in the future and give it direction, especially in the beginning. Examples of ground rules could include the following: 

·        How does the group want to plan to resolve conflict?  

·        How will the team handle individuals or personal conflicts among the team members?  

·        Will there be an agenda each time a meeting is held?  

·        Who will be responsible for preparation of the agenda?  

·        Will minutes be taken at the meetings?  

·        Who will receive copies of the minutes?  

·        How will the team communicate to the groups it represents?  

·        How will decisions be tested?  

·        How does the team get help when it gets stuck or becomes dysfunctional?  

·        What evaluation process will be used for the team processes and the outcome of the team?  

  Games, toys, illustrations may be used to help teams break the ice in the beginning phases of the project. The objective is to get the team to become more cohesive and willing to look at, and even eliminate some of the “sacred cows” that may have existed for a long time.

Ground Rules for Team Meetings

            Many teams hold meetings that seem to drag on forever and ever or a team member may bring down team morale because of abrasive behavior. Then there are the occasions where no one will say what they really feel in a meeting or staff members are frequently tardy or unprepared for meetings and assigned tasks.  Scenarios also could include teams may have trouble making a decision or make a mediocre one.

            Teams can benefit from a few ground rules when meetings are being held. First, it is important to define the purpose of the meeting and lay it out clearly before the meeting is held. An agenda creates orderly structure for the meeting and supports the purpose. It is important that items not appear on the agenda that do not support the purpose of the meeting. They are time wasters. Provide a written agenda via a pre-meeting handout or e-mail message at or before the meeting actually takes place.

            Involvement is a key factor to the success of the meeting and is often the reason the meeting was called. Make sure the right staff members are invited to the meeting and that unnecessary staff members or individuals are not asked to come.  Some suggestions for encouraging everyone to contribute may include: 

·        Asking staff members to prepare or read background material or review information.

·        Assigning staff member’s specific issues to handle.

·        Asking open-ended questions.

·        Using silence-waiting 30 seconds or a minute for answers.

·        Paraphrasing key comments and summarizing group conclusions.

·        Sharing personal opinions and findings.

·        Providing hand-outs and recording minutes.

·        Being open to the views and opinions of others.

·        Remind the team of the purpose and agenda as the meeting proceeds.

·        If staff members seem to be going through the motions and saying “yes” to everything just to get through the meeting quickly, then confront this directly in the meeting.  

·        Sharing the worry that no action will occur and finding out what staff members really think is beneficial to decision making and getting a consensus.

·        Diagnose any problems halfway through the meeting and lead a critique of the team’s progress.

·        Adjust plans as needed and review again before the meeting ends.

            The decision making phase is crucial. Set aside time and specifically ask the staff members to reach conclusions, make assignments, and finalize all unfinished business before they leave. If you skip this part, no matter how productive the meeting “felt,” the unfinished business will not make it productive. Additionally, it is hard to remember who is supposed to what and when.


            Collaboration is not an option as a ground rule in team building, but a necessity! Collaboration among team members makes them more competitive, flexible, and responsive. Collaborative team’s are a balance that blends the shared ownership, responsibility, and accountability of self-managed or self-directed teams with clear aims.

            The organization can also benefit from this shift because there is the collective wisdom, knowledge, experience and perspectives of a group of individuals rather than relying on only one person. Collaborative teams are a fundamental change in the organizational structure and require a new way of thinking in leading.

            The strength of a collaborative team is that it has the collective ownership, responsibility and accountability for its process or function. It can even be argued that there are no leaders in the traditional sense, only collaborative team leaders and team members.

            Paul Hertz has identified that collaboration is an essential issue for teams in order to: 

·       Achieve and benefit from empowerment  

·        Achieve and benefit from a flatter organizational structure  

·        Achieve and benefit from collective ownership  

·        Achieve and benefit from teamwork  

·        Achieve and benefit from a positive behavioral environment where the “whole” is considered  

        [Paul Hertz. The Leader’s Role in Building Collaborative Teams  (New York: Bantam Press, 1995), 206].