Clear Ground Rules Support Good Process
In the last article, Getting Your Meeting Off to a Good Start, we mentioned creating ground rules for the group. Ground rules, or group norms, are the group's agreement on how they expect everyone to behave during the meeting and on the procedures that they will use. It is a way of clarifying people's expectations explicitly and up front.
For example, if your group expects that everyone will arrive on time and read the materials in advance, then the group agrees to that as a ground rule and holds each other accountable. Other ground rules might be "we won't interrupt one another" or "stick to the subject at hand." A procedural ground rule might be "raise your hand to be recognized to speak." Once people agree to a set of ground rules, they are very likely to use them without further prompting. If the group slips off the subject or starts interrupting, the facilitator -- or any member of the group -- can remind participants of the agreed on rules.
To establish ground rules, explain what they are and ask the group for suggestions. Check each idea for group agreement before you write it up. If participants suggest a vague term such as "respect," ask them to clarify what acting with respect looks like or what would show an absence of respect so that you can be clear about the behaviors they are intending people to show or avoid.
When all the ground rules are written on a flip chart, confirm that you have agreement on the rules. Keep the ground rules posted on a flip chart throughout the meeting. If the group meets regularly or multiple times, save the ground rules to repost at subsequent meetings so you will not need to recreated them.
For more information about creating clear ground rules, order your copy of Great Meetings! Great Results today.
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