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Template to build team principles

Work through a team principles exercise with the help of our template.

Why team principles are important

A study from Gallup has an interesting discovery: only half of employees understand what their work expectations are. Often, unclear roles and expectations can lead to stress, poor performance, and team conflict. On the other hand, teams with clear direction are more engaged, motivated, and united around a shared goal. That’s why communicating what is expected of each person is a critical management skill.

Clear team performance goals are critical to team productivity and success, but setting clear team principles that define how the team wants to behave and work is equally, if not more, important. Guiding principles for a team are about just that:

  • Behavior expectations: these serve to align on how people should behave according to the team’s values.

  • Work expectations: these clarify the expected work quality, processes, and methodology the team uses.

  • Expectations on team rituals: define work hours, time-off, meetings, and tools.

Examples of guiding principles for teams

Just like organizations have a culture fueled by a set of values, every team also has its own subculture. This means that teams need to create their own governing set of values unique to them, which then take life in how team members behave in their day-to-day.

Think of guiding principles like team norms. Without them, there will undoubtedly be conflict. These norms are not for the manager to dictate, they’re for the team to build as a group, so they can see themselves represented in them and create a sense of shared accountability. That’s precisely why we’ve built this template. It will help you gather your team’s input which you’ll be able to use when you run a team principles exercise with the whole team!

Here are some examples of what these could look like:

  • Always put the team’s success before your own – win together, learn together. There is no “I” in team.

  • Talk to one another, not about each other – speak respectfully and aim to be empathetic and constructive in difficult conversations.

  • Trust in positive intent by default – we all share the same goal. Strive to understand and respect the different paths we take to get there.

Additional resources

Want more examples of guiding principles for teams? Check our blog and these useful reads:

How to set and communicate clear team expectations

How and why to create your team’s core values

From storming to high-performing: the meeting that saved our team

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