When you join a team, you might assume that others think the way you do. If you’ve been part of any team, you’ll find out pretty quickly that is not the case.
If you want your team to be productive, you not only need to have ground rules (or meeting norms, principles of play, or other name consistent with the culture you want to create) but also agreement on how to use them. If you don’t consistently use your meeting principles or hold everyone accountable, it can impede how well your team solves problems and makes decisions.
Types of Meeting Ground Rules or Meeting Principles
There are types of meeting principles, which include procedural and behavioral. Procedural meeting principles may include, put your phone on vibrate, be on time, and end on time. They are useful in setting expectations and enhancing meeting productivity.
Behavioral ground rules that also align with the culture you’re creating is highly useful. A behavioral ground rule or meeting principle may include “when suggesting a solution, explain your reasoning.” You may also want to add, “place off-topic conversations onto a Parking Lot.”
However, you want to check your assumptions about calling someone out on being off topic. There may be a point they are trying to make but automatically directing someone’s comment to the Parking Lot List can create unintended consequences if the person directing them to the Parking Lot is not checking their assumptions.
The other person who had the idea may, depending on their human wiring, shut down for the remainder of the meeting. As a result, your team may make an unsatisfactory decision because that person’s view was not heard.
If the assumption is first checked, you may learn that the person was thinking systemically and identified a critical issue that other team members hadn’t considered. Simply make a statement followed by a question, like “My assumption is that your idea is off-topic and should be placed on the Parking Lot, however, could you share more on your idea and how it relates to our topic?”
If that person agrees that it’s off topic, the team can decide to discuss it or place it on the Parking Lot List for inclusion on a later agenda. Acknowledging that you’re making an assumption followed by a clarifying question can lead to thoughtful team decisions, insightful communication, and continuous participation from all team members.