Rules of Engagement: Establishing Ground Rules to Build High Performing Teams

By Jean Cholka

Effectively using ground rules is an essential underpinning of high performing teams.

High performing teams know how to work well together. They support each other, hold each other accountable and help each other be their best as they work toward common goals. One practice that consistently helps to build high performing teams is establishing and regularly using ground rules.

Ground rules are a set of agreed-upon behaviors that define how a team will work with each other and how the group will work overall. Ground rules provide clarity, increase trust and respect, establish expectations, and help all members of the team to be clearer about each other’s intentions.

Here are five steps to establishing ground rules to build high performing teams

1.    Start early – Establish ground rules early on – whether it be during the formation of the team or at the start of a meeting. 

2.    Collaborate – Ground rules need to be created by the entire team in a collaborative process. Ground rules only work when everyone has bought in. 

3.    Focus on behaviors – Use verbs or words that specifically describe the ideal behavior rather than focus on concepts. Actual behaviors that can be heard or seen by all.

4.    Be brief – Five to six ground rules work well.

5.    Hold each other accountable – Help each other make the ground rules how you work together. Catch effective use in action and the opposite as well. Perhaps begin or end meetings with checking in on their use.

Establish ground rules and hold each other accountable to the ground rules.  Before you know it, they will be your culture.

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