Team Charters. Old hat or absolute essentials?

Let’s talk Team Charters.

I can see your eyes rolling now. Not another HR initiative. I have done exactly the same in the past. A set of rules and principles, handed to me or posted on a wall somewhere, never to be embedded. I am sure that’s how many people are introduced to the charter, but over the years the purpose and value have been lost. Do not underestimate the value of revisiting a charter every year, as a team if it’s done with the right intention. It’s not to create a whole heap of policies, but instead to create clarity and purpose.

In the 5 behaviours of a cohesive team programme, during the conflict and commitment modules, I often introduce the Team Charter. I am still so surprised by how many conflicting views there are around the table about the core purpose of the team. Right there we see everyone rowing in different directions or speeds. No wonder the team isn’t getting the results it needs.

So we have an open, high trust, healthy debate around team purpose.

Over the next 12 months, what is the primary focus of this team?

The leader poses the question…

Then simply facilitates. They don’t pitch in straight away, knowing that they can influence group think. Instead, they play devils advocate, ask questions, throw in some new ideas, and allow others to do the same. If you want a team who collaborate, innovate and create, then start by creating the space so they can collaborate and innovate around the team charter. You are essentially training the team on how to do teamwork.

And we know there are so many priorities for the team, but without getting them all on the table, how do you know what your team thinks are the priorities and where they put their energy? You aren’t looking for quantitative measures yet, but simply looking for thematic goals. It’s an opportunity to see if everyone is on the same page. Perhaps your thematic goals are:

  • Grow the business
  • Increase customer service
  • Strengthen the team
  • Increase communication
  • Launch a new product
  • Reduce costs and expenses
  • Increase market awareness
  • Create consistency around behaviours and processes

Create a space…

Where you can all have healthy, unfiltered debates so you can reach a decision. Choosing one does not mean the others are neglected. If strengthening the team is your priority, how you work together, upskilling, collaboration and accountability will ultimatley lead to increased efficiency, communication or more successful delivery of results. Yet you choose one focus above all.

Have a team building day, get people out of the normal environment and have impactful conversations. Once you’ve picked a team purpose, now you can debate the how. This might be an opportunity to get people working in smaller groups, brainstorming ideas and creating solutions, before presenting back to the team as a whole.

Ask these questions…

  • What is the purpose of this team over the next xxx months? 
  • What are the blocks and barriers from preventing us achieving the goals?
  • What ideas or solutions have you got to achieving?
  • What changes can be made and how?
  • What behaviours need to be adopted? How do we address poor behaviours?
  • How will decisions be made in this team?
  • How do we treat each other? Core behaviours or values.
  • How are meetings structured and what is allowed? i.e no interruptions, be on time, be prepared, no laptops or phones, always leave knowing who is doing what by when…

The key is to have open, honest conversations around team performance and in an ever changing world, how you need to change to become better. Don’t get bogged down in the detail of how to create the charter, but simply weigh in with ideas. It’s essentially team coaching.

And… whenever you bring in a new team member, share it with them. Allow them to ask questions and get clarity. It’s how you can move from forming, storming, norming to high performing quickly.

So are team charters old hat? No, they are the catalyst for change, teamwork and a sense of belonging.