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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.

Key Points To Take Away

--- Ground rules clarify expectations for behavior and procedure.
--- Establishing ground rules up front prevents problems later.
--- The whole group needs to agree to the ground rules.
--- Referring to the ground rules can help solve problems during the meeting.


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.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Create a "meeting closing" that leads to action.

About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

Learn more by clicking the links below:

* Read biographies
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What will you learn from this series?

* See the Great Meetings archive
See past articles in the series.