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:
- What 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
- Brainstorm a list of behaviors team members have experienced in past team settings that facilitated a positive team experience.
- Brainstorm a list of behaviors team members have experienced in past team settings that got in the way of a positive team experience.
- 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.
- 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:
- Arrive 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?”
Well 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!