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Establishing Meeting Ground Rules


Quick Summary
Screenshot Guidelines, examples, and a checklist of suggestions for establishing ground rules for meeting behavior.


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What this is

Guidelines, examples, and a checklist of suggestions for establishing ground rules for meeting behavior.

Why it's useful

Wherever people gather they begin to establish and follow a set of rules that guide their behaviors. Societies and countries agree on a common set of laws. Employees are governed by the company handbook and policies. But team meetings are usually left to follow their own devices, without any conscious guidance by the group. As a result, meeting participants may come to the table with vastly different expectations about the norms and behaviors for the group and how the meeting will run.

A basic set of ground rules is essential to maintaining order and structure in our meetings. It is also useful for educating new members about how the meetings are run. How formal the team is about the rules and their publication will depend on the group's size, culture, and how frequently they meet. But it is crucial that the team take some time to discuss these issues and decide them together, so the group members have common expectations of how the group will run, how differences will be settled, and what degree of participation is expected.


How to use it

  1. Review the overview on page 2 and the example ground rules on page 3 for ideas of rules that may be appropriate for your group. Consider your group's size and makeup, how long and how often they will be meeting, and the overall company culture.

  2. If you are establishing ground rules for a new meeting, set aside time as early as possible in your project kickoff—preferably at your first meeting—to discuss and agree on meeting ground rules with the team. You may want to take along one of the examples from page 3 as a stake in the ground, but the group should be free to expand, modify, or reduce the rule set until everyone agrees that it will produce the most productive meetings for the group.

  3. If you are trying to resuscitate a group meeting that has gone off the rails, consider starting with a Meeting Evaluation (see our template for guidelines and examples). If the group agrees on what has gone wrong, it will be easier to agree on rules to address those issues moving forward.

  4. If the group decides to publish the rules formally (an excellent idea), have them typed up and printed to post in the meeting room, as well as distributing through your normal channels.

  5. Appoint a facilitator for each meeting; your facilitator will monitor the meeting's progress and agenda as well as adherence to the rules. However, make the enforcement of meeting rules a group responsibility that everyone is expected to watch.

  6. Just having a set of rules that you've agreed on as a team should go a long way to reducing or even eliminating troublesome disruptions. If your group continues to struggle with productive meeting practices, see our guidelines for Preventing and Solving Meeting Disruptions for suggestions on tactful ways to handle the situation.

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