Without this your team is probably dysfunctional

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The need for teamwork in organisations in all its shapes and forms is today’s catch cry. We are often asked to develop programs to cultivate high performance in teams, improve team work, or address dysfunction in teams. So often it appears to us the teams are formed without much thought to setting them up initially with the best chance to achieve the high performance their respective organisations are looking for.

Irrespective of the state of the team’s development – creation, established, or high performance – we find more times than not there is one common element missing. This element needs to be fully formed and lived by the team if the team is to stand any chance of achieving high performance. The missing element is often referred to as Team Guiding Principles, a Team Charter, or Team Guidelines. Without this in place teams lack focus, risk setting the wrong goals, have unclear roles, team members believing they are doing the right thing may in fact be defusing team motivation and moving team members in different directions at the same time.

There is no ‘one way’ to develop Team Guiding Principles; however these are the elements that we believe you should find in a well designed and developed Team Guiding Principles text:

  • It starts with “why?”. What is the Purpose/Cause/Belief that lies behind the formation of the team? Expressed another way, what is the problem this team is to solve or the opportunity that needs to be developed, and why is this important and what results will it produce?
  • Team Mission and Goals. This is at the core of any team guidelines because it sets out the Team’s focus areas – what is the team here to do? Based on the agreed Mission, goals need to be developed and agreed ensuring the goals are measurable by the team, visible to all, believable and accepted.
  • Roles and Responsibilities. The two points above allow people with appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience, to be selected for the team to fill the functional roles required. Over and above this there are responsibilities within the team that need to be assigned to team members. As an example, the team may decide that one team member will have responsibility for co-ordination of communication with others outside the team e.g. other teams, suppliers.
  • Resources. No team can have all of the resources and expertise it requires. The trick is that team members identify the resource gaps and know in advance how to fill those when the need arises. Where teams get into trouble is trying to find the resources only when the gap becomes apparent or believing they can do it all themselves without any need to access additional resources.
  • Bounds of authority. We prefer for teams to have set bounds of authority rather than limits to authority. Limits to authority tend to ‘box’ the team in, often inhibiting team momentum and ability to adapt quickly. Bounds or boundaries on the other hand are designed to set the operating parameters, the points which the team know they cannot move beyond without reference to someone else with a greater authority level, e.g. this team can commit up to $50,000 in any one transaction without reference to…..

The final step is the team accepting mutual accountability for the Team Guidelines. This sign off is a clear acceptance of, and the team’s commitment to operate, under these guidelines only after the team’s members have clearly thought through the different aspects they need to set themselves up for success.


Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows

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