The Ground Rules

Every group has implied ground rules. Ask people about the “way they do business around here.” Often these  loosely developed habits have a tendency to create mundane, ineffective meetings that do not achieve their goals. How do I know this?  “People report over 50 percent of their meeting time is wasted.” (1)  Creating ground rules is a 5-10 minute investment resulting in engaged, productive, and more effective meetings.

5 Steps to Initiate Ground Rules

  1. Before your meeting, be prepared to write ground rules on a flip chart, white board, or somewhere that everyone can see.
  2. Ask for suggestions regarding what the group could agree to in order to make the meeting more effective.
  3. Individuals will have their own interpretation of a rule.  Discuss what each rule means as a group. This cultivates group understanding and commitment not assumption and compliance.
  4. Give permission for the group to “stop the action,” ask questions, and amend the rules during the meeting. It is important that the group learns to manage themselves.  When ground rules are broken, the implied, unwritten rule will be rules are meant to be broken.
  5. At the end of the meeting revisit the ground rules by asking, “Are our rules still serving us? Would we like to amend or adapt them in any way?” Flexible ground rules create a container for effective, productive meetings.

Sample Ground Rules

Below are selected ground rules from groups I have facilitated or been a part of.  Don’t adopt them all. Less than ten ground rules are ideal.  If there are more you may be able to combine them.

Think about what the rule will propagate for your group.  For instance, the rule “Ask questions” may help your group come to understanding or develop creative ideas.

  • Start and end on time
  • No sidebar conversations
  • Come prepared and ready to contribute
  • Listen
  • Be open to hearing other people’s perspectives
  • Question assumptions
  • Do not interrupt others while they are speaking
  • Speak only for yourself
  • Honor the group
  • Be honest
  • Be respectful
  • Create a safe environment
  • Confidentiality
  • Give specific example
  • Speak about interests not positions
  • Ask questions
  • Design next steps that foster commitment to the goal
  • Cell phones Off
  • Minutes are approved by the group
  • Capture decisions and action items
  • Silence  means agreement
  • Consensus, majority vote, or unanimous agreement are the way to make decisions
  • Raise hands when you want to speak
  • Don’t interrupt the person speaking

Questions, comments, concerns, contact us.

(1) Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!: Ten Principles for Leading Meetings That Matter