Ground Rules for Meetings
Every meeting has some unspoken ground rules. It should also have some written ground rules. Ground rules for meetings ensure that your meetings will be as productive as possible. Without the necessary meeting procedures, things can often get off track. Conducting effective meetings begins with effective meetings guidelines. Here’s what you need to know.
Conducting Effective Meetings
Formal meeting rules need to be agreed upon by an entire team. Ground rules for groups are critical for everyone’s sake. When you have clear cut ground rules for teams, everyone knows what is expected of them, and will feel as though they have clear recourse if things don’t go as expected.
Ground rules for high-performing teams should be tailored to the prospectus for the team. There may also be specific ground rules for difficult conversations or ground rules for particularly difficult meetings. The first step in building ground rules for project teams is identifying the team’s needs and processes. A group that meets infrequently, for instance, is going to need to be far more focused and effective than a team that meets every week.
Basic Meeting Procedures
Think about how to conduct a meeting. What’s discussed first? Ideally, how does everyone interact with each other? How are solutions discovered? Ground rules for meetings ultimately serve as a written version of meeting etiquette. By codifying traditional meeting etiquette do’s and don’ts, you inform everyone about the desired behavior. Your initial meeting ground rules can outline how you expect the meeting to go.
These guidelines for respectful discussion would include:
- Set and share an agenda. Everyone should understand what will be discussed in the meeting. This is especially important for guidelines for difficult conversations; the more complicated, the more everyone may need to be compelled to stay on track.
- Arrive on time. This is one of the most basic pieces of meeting etiquette for attendees. If everyone doesn’t show up on time, they won’t be able to get anything done. Similarly, make sure everyone knows what time the meeting starts.
- Invite only those necessary. One of the most important ground rules for team building is that everyone’s time is valued. If someone can simply get the minutes of the meeting rather than being in the meeting, this is preferred.
- Don’t interrupt others. This can be one of the more difficult to follow ground rules for online meetings because it’s harder to see who is preparing to speak. Still, “hands up” features and automatic prioritization can be used to make sure there’s limited cross-talk.
- Don’t put others down. An especially important part of meeting rules and etiquette is that everyone feels welcomed and as though their voice is being heard. Meeting rules are there to facilitate discussion and ensure that people want to continue speaking.
- Don’t do other work during the meeting. This is becoming a regular part of standard meeting protocol guidelines or ground rules for video conferencing because it’s so easy to start doing additional work while already online. But when everyone isn’t paying attention, things need to be redone and repeated.
Meeting rules should be straightforward and transparent. You can design a simple set of meeting rules by looking at team rules examples from other companies or online. You can also conduct a team ground rules exercise regularly to ensure that everyone participates as they should.
Ground Rules for Team Meetings
Team rules in the workplace are often more casual than cross-functional meetings or client meetings. Often, they reflect the culture of the team holding them. Most team rules examples are going to be a part of general virtual meeting etiquette. Virtual meeting ground rules and virtual meetings best practices correlate to offline meeting procedure guidelines.
Top-performing teams often instill their cultural values into their ground rules. Some examples can include:
- Be transparent. Part of the ground rules for team building (as well as ground rules for training sessions and design workshop ground rules) is to be transparent at all times. Team members will feel more relaxed, confident, and capable if they know what’s expected of them and if they can articulate and explain their points.
- Seek to be helpful. Marry intent with action. Employees work better together if they’re all pushing toward the same goals. When responding to others, team members should ask themselves, “Am I being helpful?”
- Ask for help. As a correlative point to the above, employees should also readily ask each other for support. Important workshop ground rules require that everyone is engaged and on the same page. If someone falls behind and doesn’t mention it, it isn’t conducive to the team.
- Treat everyone as a peer. Unlike virtual workshop ground rules (in which one person is usually the lead), team meetings usually require everyone to operate as a peer. No one should take complete control because everyone’s input is valued. This also relates to meeting invite etiquette; if someone’s opinion isn’t valuable for a meeting, they shouldn’t be invited to this particular meeting.
A culture of meeting etiquette can take some time to emerge and should always be bolstered by clear, written procedures. There can be a meeting etiquette poster in an office, and meeting etiquette training can be held to onboard new employees. Not everyone will have experience with the same environment and culture, so it shouldn’t be assumed that everyone has the same team or design thinking workshop ground rules.
Ground Rules for Virtual Meetings
Remote teams require virtual meetings and virtual meetings are often quite different in format, even if they have the same end-goals. Individuals need to become accustomed to how technology shapes their dialog and leverage it to better effect. People don’t always see each other visually during virtual meetings, making it hard to determine intent and tone.
Here are some of the critical best practices and virtual workshop ground rules:
- Keep yourself on mute. When not talking, it’s best practice to keep yourself on mute. That way, if there’s a sound in your home (such as barking dogs or a truck going by), it won’t distract or override everyone else.
- Ensure the workspace is in a secure, non-distracting environment. Distractions such as children and pets can make it difficult for everyone to concentrate. Settings that aren’t secure, such as coffee shops, can be serious security issues.
- Keep your camera on. If required, keeping a camera on does two things. One, it ensures everyone knows that you’re active and present. Two, it makes it easier for people to see when you’re talking and what you’re emphasizing.
- Stay on task. Employees should never begin working on other things when they are in a virtual meeting; full attention should be given to the meeting itself. Otherwise, the meeting time isn’t valuable.
These ground rules for virtual meetings and ground rules for Zoom meetings are generally used in conjunction with other meeting etiquettes.
Ground Rules for Difficult Conversations
Some meetings are more complicated than others. There can be some difficult conversations to have, such as workplace discipline or performance issues. An organization’s HR department will have training available to navigate legal particulars, but there are also other guidelines.
- Be clear about what the meeting is about. The employee deserves to know what’s going to be discussed and the meeting’s potential consequences.
- Adhere to meeting invite etiquette. Most difficult conversations should be limited to those who absolutely need to be in the meeting. Don’t tack on discipline or performance issues to another meeting.
- Provide the employee with enough time to speak. The employee should be given time to respond and discuss any discipline or performance issues, as well as to properly understand the problems that are being experienced on the company’s side. Difficult conversations should never be rushed or brief.
- Follow up outside of the conversation. Employees should have a written document that outlines the conversation and what they need to do (often in terms of a Performance Improvement Plan) to address it.
Teams should check with their organization to rigorously define the scope, timeline, and nature of such conversations to ensure fairness for everyone involved.
When it comes to meetings, the ultimate goal is to get people together to achieve common goals. Meeting etiquette forms the basis of how teams can achieve these goals without getting distracted.
Every organization’s culture is different, and some cultures are naturally more prone to on-the-fly communications than others. As companies begin to adjust to new in-person procedures and new online procedures, they will find what meeting etiquette works best. Until then, they can use meeting etiquette examples, checklists, and training programs to get started.