By Online Instructor Vivian Harte
(More about this instructor below)
Problems in a team environment are inevitable, but there are steps you can take to help minimize these problems and their impacts on your projects.
When something goes wrong, people look for someone to blame. Someone didn’t do what they said they would do. The meetings didn’t accomplish anything. Conflicts took over the team and no one could complete anything. On and on…
But, there’s a way to stop the blame game before it begins! Here are some tips to help your team create a charter that supports team success.
Benefits of Creating a Team Charter
A team charter is written by the team and contains the rules or guidelines by which the members will abide. It’s important for the team members themselves to write this charter because the buy-in will be much stronger and team members will accept enforcement of the guidelines from the team leader more easily.
By going through the process of creating a team charter, you decrease the chances of finger-pointing. If problems do arise, the charter lays out specific rules for confronting a member before blaming gets out of hand.
Another important benefit is that a charter helps you deal with two of the most common reasons for conflict: when members don’t do their share of the work and when one or more try to dominate. By identifying these potential conflicts and agreeing beforehand how to deal with them, you can nip them in the bud early. The charter also gives team members permission to confront each other in order to get past any problems.
Steps for Creating a Team Charter
The team needs to put a lot of thought into creating the charter, so don’t try to do it all at once. If you try to construct the entire charter during your first meeting, people will get burned out. Discussing it over a few sessions is more effective.
Remember too that crafting the charter will involve going back and forth to define each of the team rules. Keep the discussion open and encourage everyone to give their ideas and thoughts.
Here are some steps you can use to construct your team’s charter:
Ask members to think of the successful teams they have been on in the past and what made those teams effective.
Decide together which of those characteristics the team would like to include in the charter. (Make sure everyone participates in making these decisions. If someone seems to be holding back or isn’t paying full attention, say something.)
You should welcome disagreement when it comes to writing the charter. Realize that this disagreement and the resulting discussion helps forge a great team. After you’ve discussed a particular rule and not everyone agrees, be careful. If someone feels it’s a compromise, the team can change the rule or throw it out. If you leave the disagreement unresolved, there will be problems in the future. Keep working until everyone is comfortable with the rule.
Talk about the pros and cons of every issue and get to the root of people’s feelings before you agree on anything.
Don’t have more than 10-12 rules for the team, and write down each rule that you decide on. If you have too many rules, people will feel they’re being micromanaged. Look for common issues and try to condense them into one simple rule to reduce the total number of team rules in your charter.
Review and evaluate the rules every couple months or so. Look at how effective the rules have been and revise them as needed.
Here are some sample ground rules that you could incorporate into your team charter:
1. Work-related conflicts can be discussed within team meetings.
2. All views will be heard before the team makes a decision.
3. Certain topics are confidential.
4. Everyone receives assignments and completes them on time.
5. Don’t send a representative from your department to the team meeting; come yourself.
6. The team will acknowledge and celebrate all wins.
7. Evaluate each meeting by identifying one thing that went well and one thing that could be improved.
Remember, when creating your charter, it’s important to get all of the team members involved. You want your meetings to be a safe place where team members can freely voice their opinions. Disagreements will happen, and they are a good thing because they help make the team better and the resulting charter stronger.
Once you have a charter that has been agreed upon by all team members, you can move forward as a more productive, high-performing team.
About this Instructor
As a professor at two colleges for over 14 years, Vivian Harte taught students how to build and maintain successful teams. In the workplace, she helped teams create a city’s strategic energy plan, write a state’s recycling manual, organize and facilitate educational conferences for recycling coordinators, and make recommendations for improving college policies for faculty members. But perhaps her favorite work is interacting with students online to help them build the kind of teams that make a difference in workplaces across the country.