There’s no better feeling than having an aligned team—communication flows smoothly, people are excited about their work, and you can make real progress toward your goals. But when you’re managing a diverse team of individuals with varying backgrounds, work styles, and preferences, achieving alignment is easier said than done! Throw remote or hybrid work arrangements into the mix, and it can become a big challenge to get everyone on the same page.
A simple but effective way to promote successful collaboration within your team is to create a team agreement. In this article, we’ll dive into what a team agreement is and how it can transform your team, plus cover the steps for creating your own, alongside some helpful examples.
- What is a team agreement?
- When do you use a team agreement?
- Benefits of a team agreement
- How to create a team agreement
- 3 examples of team agreements
- Free template
What is a team agreement?
A team agreement is a document outlining the rules, behaviors, and expectations to which your team commits. It’s developed collaboratively as a team, so everyone’s involved in shaping your commitments and has a shared responsibility for upholding them. Your agreement can include information on everything from preferred communication methods and tools to individual working styles, key responsibilities, and more.
All team agreements will be different; your commitments will be tailored to your team’s unique goals, preferences, and culture. Although it’s important to dedicate a few focused working sessions to creating your agreement, once it’s complete, you’ll have a resource to refer back to time and again to help your team stay aligned.
When do you use a team agreement?
A team agreement can be incredibly helpful for teams of all types and sizes striving to create a productive and welcoming work environment. Having a team agreement in place is particularly useful if your team is undergoing a period of growth or change—for example, if you’re onboarding new members or adopting new goals and strategies. It can also make the transition to hybrid, remote, or in-person work much smoother. Once you’ve created your team agreement, you’ll want to review it at least once per quarter to make sure it’s being followed and check if it needs any updates.
Managing a team?
Take control of your team meetings by having collaborative meeting notes and encouraging accountability with action items. Try a tool like Fellow!
Benefits of a team agreement
A team agreement can help your team create and stick to effective collaboration processes that set your projects up for success. For example, you can include details on what tools your team uses and how you use them, key responsibilities, work schedules, decision-making methods, and more. Taking the time to formalize your workflows in writing will help team members understand your key processes and give them the chance to suggest any improvements.
Want to improve your meeting workflow? Fellow can help you streamline communication with collaborative meeting agendas!
Improves team communication
Nothing can hamper productivity like poor communication! Prevent missed deadlines, mistakes, extra work, and more by documenting your team communication strategies in your team agreement. Clearly outlining communication methods, tools, and frequency will ensure everyone’s on the same page about what works—and what doesn’t—for your team. Creating a team agreement will give team members a chance to collectively decide on the type of communication culture they want to create and build a sense of shared responsibility for maintaining it. The agreement will also help your team learn about each other’s communication styles and how to accommodate them for seamless collaboration.
Team alignment means everyone’s unified around common goals and agrees on the best ways to achieve them. However, achieving alignment can be super challenging when your team members all have different processes, methods, and expectations. Writing a team agreement will help your team reach a consensus on how you want to work together successfully. Creating your document is a collaborative process, so everyone will be able to provide input and understand how they’re contributing to the company’s larger vision. Regularly reviewing and updating your working agreements will embed alignment into your company culture and keep team members on track to reach their goals.
Unclear expectations can lead to employee stress, burnout, and disengagement, and may even cause people to leave your company altogether. Writing down your expectations in a team agreement is a great way to clearly communicate them so both new hires and long-time team members are set up for success. While working on your agreement, make sure to revise any expectations that are unclear, inconsistent, or unrealistic. Also, check that your expectations are specific and measurable so that if someone isn’t meeting them, they can understand why and how to improve.
How to create a team agreement
- Set clear goals
- Outline team preferences
- Document your decision-making process
- Decide how conflict will be handled
- Outline communication expectations
- Regularly review your agreement
1Set clear goals
Including your goals in your team agreement will help your team feel a shared sense of purpose around your objectives and help move your organization toward its long-term vision. Start by identifying your company’s highest-level objectives to ensure your goals reflect your overall mission and values. Be sure to include the entire team when forming objectives and key results (OKRs) to avoid setting unreasonable or unattainable goals. Decide how you’ll measure your goals, by when you want to achieve them, and what steps you need to take to reach them.
Looking for some guidance? A great way to track your goals is to use Fellow’s Objectives tool! Fellow enables your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance.
2Outline team preferences
Next, decide how your team can best work together to leverage everyone’s skills, expertise, and ideas. Your team is full of different personalities and working styles, so it’s important for each person to share what a comfortable and productive work environment looks like to them. Discuss work schedules, habits, strategies, likes, and dislikes—and don’t hold back! Getting these things out in the open while forming your team agreement will help you build a strong foundation for future collaboration.
It’s important to get detailed; for example, you can include whether your team members prefer early morning or late afternoon meetings. Feel free to experiment with new ways of working together—you can modify your agreements as you go!
3Document your decision-making process
Although teams often neglect to create a formalized process for decision making, it’s crucial to come up with an intentional strategy while writing your team agreement. That way, when it’s time to make a decision, your team can reach a consensus smoothly and efficiently and start taking immediate action. While outlining a decision-making process for your working agreements, discuss who will be involved in decision making, how long you want to spend on decisions, and how you’ll manage inevitable disagreements. Make sure to include details on any tools or techniques you want to use, and consider how you’ll evaluate your decision making and improve it if needed.
4Decide how conflict will be handled
No matter how well-aligned your team is, conflicts will inevitably arise. Deciding in advance how you’ll handle disagreements will help keep working relationships healthy and productive. Outline the best way for people to communicate about conflicts, who should manage them, and what steps you’ll take to resolve them.
You’ll also want to go over practices your team should avoid, such as not dealing with a conflict right away, being quick to blame others, or discussing the conflict with people who aren’t directly involved. By reviewing how you’ll resolve disputes before they happen, you can transform conflicts from negative experiences into opportunities for growth.
5Outline communication expectations
You’ll also want to include information on how your team will manage daily communication in your team agreement. Identify what channels you’ll use and how you’ll use them, including email, messaging, and project management tools. Team members might have varying communication styles, so exploring how you can accommodate these differences is key. Discuss communication skills and practices you want to use, such as active listening and two-way communication, as well as how your team wants to give and receive feedback. Communication is a big topic, but including these details in your team agreement can transform your ability to collaborate and really make you feel like a team.
6Regularly review your agreement
Creating a team agreement is far from a one-and-done job—it will be most impactful if you regularly review and update it. It’s best to review it as a team each quarter to see if everyone’s staying committed. Your agreement is a living document, so you should also edit it regularly. For example, it might need an update if there’s a change in your working arrangements, when you have new team members, or if your OKRs and strategy shift. By keeping your agreements top of mind, everyone can stay focused on your big-picture goals and how to reach them.
3 examples of team agreements
One example of an agreement your team could make is to always promote open and transparent communication. This means people commit to creating an environment where all team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions, and different perspectives are welcomed instead of criticized. You might adopt an open-door policy, often ask your team members for input, and encourage frequent feedback.
Another example is the agreement that all meetings will have a clear agenda. If your team is struggling with unproductive or unfocused meetings, you could commit to sending an agenda at least 24 hours before each meeting. Then everyone will have plenty of time to organize their thoughts and goals plus suggest any additions so nothing’s missing on meeting day.
A third example is the agreement to reframe failure as a stepping stone to success. Instead of getting stuck on a team member’s mistakes and creating a culture of blame, your team can decide to see failure as an opportunity to grow. You can choose to focus on the positives and leverage your failures for future success.
Creating a team agreement is a simple but highly effective way to improve your team’s collaboration. For the biggest impact, make sure to dedicate enough time to writing your commitments, involve all team members, and review your agreement regularly to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind. Don’t forget to check out the Fellow blog for effective work habits and best practices you may want to include in your agreement!