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A List of Ground Rules for Effective Meetings

Call them what you will – meeting norms, team agreements, rules of engagement, or conditions for success – when it comes to effective meetings, it’s necessary to set up a few ground rules before you get started.

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As the facilitator, it is up to you to provide expectations for how your meeting will run, and how participants will treat each other during discussions.

Here are some commonly used ground rules (collected from colleagues and meetings we’ve been a part of) you might choose from:

  • Everyone participate, no one dominate
  • Share the airtime
  • Success depends on participation – share ideas, ask questions, draw others out
  • Listen to understand
  • Use I statements
  • Listen for the future to emerge
  • One speaker at a time
  • Seek unity (not separation)
  • Disagree without being disagreeable
  • Share your unique perspective
  • Share your experience (not others)
  • Speak honestly
  • Stay open to new ways of doing things
  • All ideas are valid
  • Critique ideas, not people
  • Be positive, non-judgmental and open to new ideas
  • Remember responsibility and non-defensiveness
  • Stay at the strategic level (out of the operational)
  • Everything happens through conversation
  • Meaning is in the listener
  • Listen from the “We” but speak from the “I”
  • Respect each others’ thinking and value their contributions
  • Listen for understanding – inquire (ask) before you advocate (persuade)
  • Be aware of meaningless abstraction
  • Treat everything you hear as an opportunity to learn and grow
  • Articulate hidden assumptions
  • Challenge cherished beliefs
  • With transformation, expect anxiety
  • Manage group work
  • Show up and CHOOSE to be present
  • Staying on schedule is everyone’s responsibility; honor time limits
  • State your “headline” first, then the supporting information as necessary
  • Be brief and meaningful when voicing your opinion
  • Speak your truth, without blame or judgment
  • Be intrigued by the difference you hear
  • Expect to be surprised
  • Allow ever voice to be heard
  • Let go of the outcome
  • Whatever is said in the room stays in the room
  • Ask “what’s possible?” not “what’s wrong”? Keep asking
  • Listen with care instead of “building your story”
  • Participate 100%
  • Seek common ground and understanding (not problems and conflict)
  • “Yes…and” thinking (not, “Yes…but”)
  • Stay out of the weeds and the swamps
  • Listen for the future to emerge
  • Have fun!

Once you set your meeting guidelines, be sure that all of your participants are aware of your expectations. A great way to keep them reminded, without saying a word, is to use a visual agenda. That way you have a graphic reference of the ground rules in plain view where they can help the group regulate themselves. (Check out my last post to learn other benefits of a visual agenda, “5 Ways to Manage Your Meetings”)

What are the ground rules for your meetings? Have you ever seen a meeting derail because the facilitator failed to provide guidelines? Tell us about it below.

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