A process to identify group agreements, with a list of some of our favorite examples to consider adopting.
An early step before engaging in courageous conversations is to first establish group agreements. When created with care, group agreements help create a welcoming space where every participant can engage. With group agreements in place, participants are usually more comfortable raising new perspectives, disagreeing with one another, and engaging in the kind of generative conflict that is necessary for good decision making.
To generate a list of potential agreements, consider asking participants to reflect on the following question: “What do you need from the people in this group for you to be able to participate fully?” Start by providing time for personal reflection, and then invite participants to share their thoughts, first in small groups and then in the full group. Once you have co-created a list, test for agreement, make any final changes, and ask people to affirm the group agreements.
People might offer things like “I need to know that the things I share will be kept confidential.” A corresponding group agreement around confidentiality might be to “Take the lesson, leave the details.” Others might say that they have a hard time sitting for long periods of time and need to move around. A corresponding group agreement might be to “Practice self-care.”
People believe in what they co-create. There is real power in inviting network members to generate and “own” the agreements that will guide their behavior. If you bring suggested agreements to the group for consideration, do so sparingly. Co-creation sets the stage for accountability.