What are ground rules?

Posted on Jun 2, 2017

A few months ago, I wrote about ground rules and how they provide a critical foundation to running an effective meeting.

But what exactly are ground rules?

The one I always start with is BE HERE NOW. This means laptops closed and phones on silent or vibrate. As I explained in my previous post, if your attendees aren’t paying attention, there’s just no point in having the meeting because it’s a waste of time. Also, everyone being focused means we are going to get more done in less time and get you on to the next item on your to-do list.

This also means attendees need to stick to ONE CONVERSATION in the room. Having multiple conversations going at the same time is just another distraction and means that people will miss at least part of what is being said. So no sidebars! If it’s important enough that you need to say it right now, then it’s important enough to share with the room. If you have the question, it’s likely someone else is wondering the same thing, so speak up.

The next ground rule is BE SUPPORTIVE. Listen and first seek to understand what your fellow attendees are saying. In the misguided interest of expediency, some people are tempted to just railroad their peers into a pre-selected solution, but this approach usually backfires. You might think you are saving time now, but you will likely spend even more time later trying to get people to actually comply with the solution you developed.

This is a big reason that it is important for participants to BE HONEST. Sometimes, in an effort to be “nice”, we hesitate to speak up when we don’t agree, but the way you add value is to provide your honest feedback in a respectful way.

However, being honest does not mean just shooting down other people’s ideas. Effective participation means each attendee needs to BE SOLUTION-ORIENTED. We absolutely want to escalate risks and concerns, but then the team needs to work together to figure out how to solve, or at least mitigate, the problem.

These are the basics when it comes to ground rules, but you can add others as needed to fit your situation and culture. Running an effective meeting is a skill set that can be learned and I’d love to help you out.