Ground-Rules for groups

Donna Rae Scheffert, President, Leadership Tools uses ground-rules for groups like these below when she facilitates groups. She has over 25 years of experience helping propel groups forward more easily while having more fun.

Ground-Rules for Groups

Ground-Rules for Groups are:

– a set of rules that are usually developed at the first meeting and used by the leader, moderator or facilitator to manage individual and group interaction. 

Most often they are a short list of rules of how the group will work together.  Creating and enforcing ground rules can create a safe, friendly meeting environment can help leaders achieve the purpose of their meeting.  Making them explicit helps clarify individual rights and responsibilities in the group setting.

Effective ground-rules-for-groups help:

o   Build group trust

o   Manage problems before and as they occur


·           Start on time, end on time

·           Everyone is encouraged to participate

·           Listen respectfully – no interrupting

·           No one person monopolizes the time or ideas

·           Stick to the agenda as much as possible

·           Seek clarification from others when you don’t understand

Be sure to attend to them when they’re violated – enforcing the stated rules reminds participants that the ground-rules for groups matter and that the meeting has boundaries for acceptable behavior.

Ground-Rules for groups specifically name the expectations for behavior within a group that works together. They are intended to boost productivity and reduce interpersonal conflict. These three questions below are useful to answer to identify the five to ten ground-rules for your group.

Q. 1 What agreements do we need to have amongst ourselves that will guide our individual behavior and teamwork regardless of the situation? It’s what we can count on from one another?

Q2. How can we recognize and affirm each other when these guidelines are followed?

Q3. What ways shall we give feedback and do midcourse corrections when the guidelines are not being followed?

Samples of Common Ground-Rules for Groups

1.       Be willing to listen with an open mind until the speaker has finished their thoughts. Don’t interrupt while someone is talking. Don’t cut people off. 

2.       Seek organizational results first, then individual results.

3.       Talk directly to a person about concerns. Squelch rumors and don’t perpetuate them.

4.       Keep your promises. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If an unexpected conflict arises, communicate to someone in the organization that you will not be able to keep your commitment.

5.       Treat each other with respect and value. Value the knowledge, experiences and traditions that individuals have.

6.       Once a decision is made, support it as a team. Keep debate about the decision on the inside of the organization and don’t blame people or talk about the decision on the outside of the group.

7.       Address others and their ideas in a positive manner. Don’t evaluate people or their ideas in an open forum like a meeting, or in a closed way such as through e-mail.

8.       Make sure those who need to know, do know.

9.       Highlight controversial or potentially controversial items or issues in a planned way during regular business. Don’t bury, or hide (intentionally or not) areas of conflict or allow a power group to manage them without member input.

10.   When you find a mistake, assume the person had good intentions. Move on. Don’t assume it was a conspiracy or stupidity and stereotype the person.

11.   Mostly use positive feedback and reinforcement; use negative feedback sparingly.

12.   When you make a suggestion on a potentially sensitive issue, make contact in person or by telephone rather than by e-mail. If an item requires more than two e-mails to sort out as it has differing opinions, stop using e-mail as the method to discuss it.

13.   When you have a problem with something, propose a workable solution for it.

14.   Communicate directly with team members with whom you have an issue, in a polite way, face-to-face, asking questions of them rather than giving your judgment to them.

15.   Take part in decision making; keeping silent when decisions are made and then complaining later is inappropriate.

16.   When dealing with people, focus on issues, not on personalities.

17.   Give unsolicited encouragement and credit.

18.   Do not dwell on undesirable outcomes. Mistakes can happen and must be learned from to improve what we do in the future.

19.   Go to the original source to clarify and confirm information. Don’t jump to assumptions.

20.   Speak to a person we have an issue with first, and as soon as possible. Do not talk to others about your hurt feelings or other reactions without speaking to the person.

21.   Let past hurts, disappoints, and injustices live in the past. Start with a clean slate to engage and communicate with team members. Use the guidelines to keep it positive.

For More Information

Facilitation. Training. Strategic Planning. Developing Ground-Rules for Groups. 

Donna Rae Scheffert

809 Mayflower Ct.

Northfield, MN 55057

Let me assist you and your organization. Call me at 612.360.4484

Scheffert is a facilitator, trainer, and strategic planner. She brings experience from over thirty years working with high performing groups. Often times using ground- rules appropriately is part of the solution for groups to make progress.

Scheffert is President of Leadership Tools, a U.S. based consulting firm. She is a retired Leadership Development Specialist from the University of Minnesota Extension. She spent over 25 years creating leadership information, tools and training.

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