Extraordinary Team Ground Rules

Posted by Kristin Arnold on March 5, 2012

Think back to the best team you have ever been on.  You know the one: Got great results, the team progressed quickly, and you really enjoyed working with them?  Oh yes…and wouldn’t it be great if everyone brought that same ethos to each and every team?

One of the best teams I have ever been on was the US Coast Guard Reserve Quality Team.  A rag-tag band of ten would congregate in Washington DC once a month for two days – and accomplish some amazing things for the US Coast Guard.  To this day, I still remember our guiding principles or “ground rules” for effective team behavior:

  • The team is an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Active cooperation from every team member is vital for team success.
  • Team members must work closely together and make every effort to support one another.
  • Seek first to understand then to be understood.
  • Rules of Behavior for Effective Teamwork

Ask for ideas from everyone.
Offer help without being asked.
Accept all suggestions as valid for consideration.
Consider the needs, motivations and skills of other team members when offering help or advice.
Work together to solve problems.
Recognize and consider others ideas.
Give your undivided attention to the person speaking.
Respect each other by not interrupting.
Set a time frame on each deliverable.
Start on time and end on time.
Plan each day, every day.
Minimize distractions (debate).
Breaks – called by the team or by individual judgment, recognizing that it affects the team dynamics.
Be open to constructive “Reminder of Our Rules.

  • Have fun & be joyous!

We started each meeting by going around the table with each person reciting one ground rule.  At the end of each meeting, we would debrief with our perspectives about what we did well and what two ground rules could do a little better at.

Interestingly enough, I can still remember these ground rules, even though it has been twenty years ago.  And I bring these ground rules to each and every team I am on.

Do you remember the best team ever?  What were the implicit or explicit ground rules that made it so great?