If you want your team to be effective, you need meeting ground rules — and you need agreement about how to use them. Many teams that have ground rules don’t regularly use them. But having rules in place that you consistently enforce can significantly improve how your team solves problems and makes decisions.
There are different types of ground rules. Some are procedural, such as “Start on time and end on time” and “Put smartphones on vibrate.” Procedural ground rules are useful but don’t help your team create productive behavior beyond, say, everyone being on time and having their smartphones on vibrate.
Other ground rules are abstract, such as “Treat everyone with respect” and “Be constructive.” These rules focus on a desirable outcome but don’t identify the specific behaviors that are respectful or constructive. As a result, abstract rules create problems if group members have different ideas about how to act respectfully. For some group members, acting respectfully means not raising any concerns about individual members in the group; for other members it may mean the opposite.
Behavioral ground rules are more useful. They describe specific actions that team members should take to act effectively. Examples of behavioral ground rules include “make statements and ask genuine questions” and “explain your reasoning and intent.”