Group agreements are a powerful tool we use to help people work well together. We encourage groups to spend some time formulating agreements and to refer to them regularly as a reminder of the importance of getting along.
Items they come up with might be as simple as punctuality or not talking over each other. Or they can be as complex as a source of troublesome tension.
I worked with a group recently that spent a long time on their group agreements – more than double the time we had allotted in the session outline.
One particular item was causing some frustration and required lengthy discussion. But rather than cutting them off and parking the issue for later, I let it run.
It became clear that we were doing much-needed work. Coming to an agreement about this sticking point was worth spending time on for them. It strengthened their resolve to work together constructively and achieve their aims.
Forming agreements is a great way to highlight issues of concern and to arrive at a consensus on the best way forward.
Groups that engage with this process step through a collaborative decision-making process, often without realising that’s what they are doing.
When people reach agreement on how they behave and work with each other, not only have they arrived at a set of standards they can use to great effect, they’ve done so by listening to each other, acknowledging everyone’s perspective and negotiating a position they can all accept.
It’s why we try to lay the foundations of every group with some agreements – they help us set and maintain a positive vibe and a can-do culture in the group.
By strengthening the bonds between those we work with, we build the goodwill we need to draw on when times get tough, as they inevitably will!
– Jim Buckell