Team Engagement Tip: How to Create Key Operating Principles

There are a few critical questions every person on a team must be able to answer, in order to ensure a well-functioning, highly productive and engaged team:

    • Questions for team effectivenessWhat are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors?
    • How will the team handle lack of participation by one or more members, disagreements, inability to reach consensus, and other interpersonal issues?
    • How will team members be held accountable?
    • How will leadership be managed? To whom are we responsible as a team?

 The answer to all those questions can be found in the Key Operating Principles.

How to Create Your Key Operating Principles

    1. team meetingBrainstorm a list of behaviors team members have experienced in past team settings that facilitated a positive team experience.
    2. Brainstorm a list of behaviors team members have experienced in past team settings that got in the way of a positive team experience.
    3. Develop a list of 5-12 specific behaviors that will generate a positive experience for the team. Don’t get hung up on the wording. The key here is to get total team buy-in on principles you all agree to work by in this team setting.
    4. Keep Key Operating Principles posted, and review them before each meeting. Use them to keep team members “honest.” At the conclusion of each meeting, take time to critique team processes based on these principles.

Here’s a sample of one team’s Key Operating Principles:

We agree to:

        • ŸArrive on time, fully prepared;
        • Honor the agenda;
        • Treat each other with respect;
        • Participate fully;
        • Communicate clearly and honestly ~ listen with the intent to understand;
        • Bury “dead horses;”
        • Have fun;
        • Honor agreements and commitments


As a team leader, you might be asking: “Couldn’t I just go ahead and create the Key Operating Principles myself, then share them with the team?”

Teamwork-exclamationPointWell yes, you could — of course! But why would you? You would be missing out on the most incredible benefit of the whole process! My experience is that the process of the team working together to share team experiences, discuss the high points and disasters of past teams, and communicate to create their own Key Operating Principles is almost more important and valuable that the Principles themselves! It is a mini team building activity with huge paybacks in the real work setting. It doesn’t get much better than that!

And, as my speaking and training colleague Bob Pike always says, “People rarely argue with their own data!”

Now, power up your engagement by creating Key Operating Principles with your team(s) — and be extraordinary!


About Cher & Bil Holton

Since 1984, Cher & Bil Holton have been co-owners of The Holton Consulting Group, Inc., helping corporate and association clients enhance bottom-line results using cutting edge employee engagement. Their keynote speeches, turbo-training, and coaching sessions are practical, grounded in research, and lots of fun to boot! They are prolific authors, and take "Indiana Jones" vacations to continually stretch their limits!
This entry was posted in Employee Engagement, Leadership, Team Building and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Team Engagement Tip: How to Create Key Operating Principles

  1. Pingback: Cognitive Diversity: Secret Weapon of Extraordinary Teams

  2. Pingback: How to Jump-Start Your Teams: 4 Fundamental Questions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s