At ENGAGE, we have worked with several leadership teams in the last few years who, when we first met them, had no explicit rules about how they wanted to work together. None of them were, at that time, high performing.

All of our leadership team data suggests that successful teams need a set of rules or norms to hold themselves accountable to. This requires an explicit set of conversations and a written agreement amongst the team members. Once done, and if well adhered to, it can help transform a team’s effectiveness.

The right way to work

The organisational psychologist John Amaechi famously stated that “culture is defined by the worst behaviour an organisation tolerates”. The same is true within high-performing senior leadership teams. This is why they need a team agreement, which is a written statement of how things are done within the team, along with what will not be tolerated.

In other words, it’s a collective setting of boundaries that the team agrees to operate in. It can be created with a relatively simple exercise where the team captures the behaviours they want to see actively practised, and those which they believe will damage the team dynamic.

But why does having an explicit team manifesto or code of conduct matter so much?

The benefits of a team code of conduct

 Our work with over one hundred senior leadership teams suggests a team manifesto can:

  • Create trust within the team: members tend to feel safer and able to operate together more openly when they have explicitly agreed on a set of behaviours
  • Act as a critical reference point to help the team identify, deal with and remove unhelpful behaviour
  • Serve as a guide when senior teams are in the room together – especially if it is visible (some Executive Committees have their agreed behaviours on the wall or small cards when they meet, as this holds the whole team to account)
  • Function as part of the team’s review process when it assesses how each meeting or project has gone (what went well, what could be done better, what could be done differently etc.)
  • Be reviewed regularly to improve team performance, or evolve the code of practice as the team matures.

Agreements on ways of working can also support teams at very different starting points:

  1. They can help newly formed teams agree on a set of basic ground rules to get off to a fast start as they get to know each other and build trust as they work together
  2. Teams who are already performing well can use a manifesto to iron out small issues which may be impacting the team dynamic
  3. They can also help teams who are struggling to reset and stimulate improved performance through a new set of ground rules.

Team clarity in action

At ENGAGE, we get to see the results of team statements first-hand. We recently worked with a new leadership team, who were brought together following a merger of two significant competitors in the entertainment industry. As the team members were from legacy organisations, there was some inevitable hesitation from both sides about what behavioural norms to expect as the two groups came together.

We spent two days with the new team to help them get to know each other and build trust. During this time, we activated a new team purpose and created a team manifesto which would define their core behaviours.

The team agreed on the following list:

We will…

We won’t…

  • Show respect towards each other
  • Tolerate inappropriate behaviours
  • Be honest, transparent and act with integrity
  • Gossip or speak poorly of others
  • Be open-minded towards others’ opinions and perspectives
  • Play power games 
  • Be inclusive
  • Blame each other when things go wrong
  • Be tolerant and patient with one another
  • Be disloyal
  • Support and listen to each other
  • Hold on to information rather than sharing with others, or only sharing information when it would benefit them
  • Learn from our mistakes and move forward as a team
  • Operate in silos or encourage silo mentality
  • Be brave in our thinking and decision making
  • Make assumptions before having all the information
  • Be agile
  • Micro-manage 
  • Empower one another
  • Always have fun, and be positive
  • Act as one team, succeeding together

As the team worked together through some tough initial cost-cutting, they had plenty of opportunities to test out their manifesto. Keeping the expected behaviours visible in each meeting not only helped the team to recognise the positives within the group dynamic, but also hold each other to account when poor behaviours broke out. Our ongoing team coaching has allowed the team to push through these challenges, with positive habits emerging across the team, and they are now enjoying the most successful year the organisation has had to date.

Improving your dynamic

So if your own leadership team is struggling with its current dynamic, ask yourself three questions:

  1.  Have we explicitly agreed on our ways of working together?
  2.  Have we recorded these specific behaviours in a team statement?
  3.  How well are we holding ourselves to account?

These starting points should help your team work together more effectively to make decisions and enhance performance.

If you’d like to learn more about our diagnostic and team-coaching approach and how this could help your own leadership team to create a team manifesto and agree on its ways of working, be sure to get in touch.