Working Agreements

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

|Photo by Steven Depolo||

There are times when I have to remind myself that it is the simple things that can have the biggest impact in our change work.  For example, I have been appreciating the impact of intentionally establishing what we call “working agreements” at the outset of a single convening or ongoing work with a group.  Others might refer to these as “norms” or “ground rules,” though we like placing emphasis on the fact that these are guidelines that everyone builds together, agrees to, and can amend as we discover new needs, hence “working.”  In any case, the aim is to create safe spaces where people feel willing and able to speak their truths/be themselves, take risks, be creative, and ultimately produce something of shared value.  To this end, we either start from the blank page or offer up a short list of suggested guidelines and invite people to add and adjust.  As important as the agreements themselves are, there is also much to be gained from the process of building the agreements together.  More on that at another time.  For now, I wanted to lift up some of the agreements that I have found to be most powerful and invite others to add:

  • Listen for understanding, not disagreement
  • Consider the opinions and experiences of others
  • Be mindful of the difference between intent and impact
  • Step up, step back (take turns speaking, make room for others to speak)
  • Tolerate ambiguity
  • Lean into discomfort
  • Bring a spirit of experimentation and creativity
  • Remember that what we hear is often more important than what we say
  • Honor complexity and the fact that as individuals we do not know it all
  • Share responsibility for success

No Comments

  • Jen Willsea says:

    Thanks for lifting up this very simple, yet very important practice of ours! And I always like a good list of working agreements. Thanks, Curtis!

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    One more to consider:
    Remember that we each only have partial access to the truth(a call to humility about the rightness of our own views)

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