Skip to main content

The SIX definitive steps towards creating an effective team charter

You’re in a never-ending meeting. Other team members are monopolising the airtime. No one’s making any decisions, and you can feel the frustration building. Your team could use a charter.

A team charter will clarify expectations and collective accountability. Particularly if the team works together to identify the things that matter. In my view, people don’t come to work to do a crap job. And yet, too many organisations are staffed by quiet quitters who coast along doing the bare minimum they can get away with. This can be hugely demoralising for anyone who wants to make an impact and do good work.

We share a template customisable to your team’s needs to help you visualise and implement your team charter effectively. Unlike a project charter, which outlines the requirements and goals of a single project, a team charter focuses on the team’s mission, objectives, and operational scope, serving as a foundational document for team cohesion and communication.

Investing in team charters is crucial to scaling your business and fostering the right company culture. They are instrumental in defining shared goals, ensuring team cohesion, and improving communication, which in turn supports scaling your business and enhancing company culture.

1 – Understand Motivation

The first step is ensuring everyone writes their own one-page personal plan. When I work with a new client, I guide every leadership team member through this process. It’s not uncommon for people to have worked together for years yet know very little about each other. What you uncover can often be quite staggering – stories of childhood poverty, health issues, school failures, aspirations for their children, and numerous other factors that have shaped who they are today. This exercise delves into the legacy they wish to leave and their motivations in their job. Sometimes, it’s the first time they’ve reflected in this way, bringing immediate clarity to how team members think and feel.

This builds vulnerability and trust – two essential characteristics of high-functioning teams. It’s crucial that work, family, and health are in alignment for everyone. If they’re not, this exercise provides the opportunity to decide together what to do to ensure everyone feels balanced. For example, if someone on the team is working harder than the others, this is the time to get them some help or redistribute the work. You don’t want any bitterness in your team.

2 – Work on mutual understanding to create an effective team charter

An excellent place to start is getting everyone to understand each other’s differences. You can’t assume that people will grasp this automatically. Most of us get up in the morning and expect everyone else to be the same. By lunchtime, we realise idiots surround us! Building mutual understanding needs deliberate focus.

When working with teams, we get each member to do Patrick Lencioni’s ‘Working Genius’ tool.  Then, armed with these profiles, they write their ‘love/loathe’ list, i.e. all the good and bad sides of their role.  We recently did this with a sales leadership team and got them to link their love/loathes to their Working Genius profile. Three of them said, ‘We hate Excel spreadsheets!’  Another member of the team said the opposite – he loved Excel. They’d been working together, doing the same job for years and never realised this difference. So, they agreed to swap tasks around based on who would be best suited to do them. This mutual understanding is also crucial in helping new team members join and integrate into the team by understanding their coworkers’ roles and responsibilities, facilitating their integration through collaborative activities and ensuring each team member contributes effectively to creating and adhering to the team charter.

    3 – Agree on team goals and metrics

    Once you’ve profiled everyone on the team, open up a collective discussion of the metrics you will track as part of the project planning process. How will this team measure success in a way that contributes to the company’s success? I suggest using OKRs and KPIs.

    OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, define team and corporate goals within an organisation. They articulate ‘Who, What, and When’, ensuring clarity on accountability and delivery goals. These goals can be time or activity-based, providing a clear measure of progression towards an objective. To illustrate their effectiveness, we can compare them to personal goals.

    Consider the goal of getting fit. Without a proper plan, achieving this goal is unlikely. Everyone has their own definition of what being fit means—their expectations. Therefore, it’s essential to be specific about the goal and the steps needed to achieve it. For instance, if your goal is to run a marathon, you must decide on a timeframe. Perhaps you aim to complete it in two years. But how fast do you want to run the marathon?

    You might set a target of finishing the marathon within five hours and then plan out the milestones along the way. What progress do you expect to make in 90 days, with a 70% confidence level? Perhaps you aim to run for 90 minutes in one session. By the end of the first week, you might set a goal of running for 30 minutes. You can then share your progress with your personal trainer at each milestone and adjust your plan if you fall short.

    When approached in this manner, OKRs can clarify team expectations. Everyone knows their direction, the speed at which they need to move, and their real-time performance.

    Individual scorecards or KPIs are another thing. By all means, share that data so there’s transparency around who’s performing and who isn’t. But as a team, what’s the one thing you’re measuring? So that, when push comes to shove, you’re prepared to give some time and effort to support someone else so that the whole team can be successful, thereby ensuring the team’s success.

    When you’re doing job scorecards, get the team to agree on the KPIs as a crucial step in defining team goals that align with and contribute to the project’s success. They need to decide the benchmarks for good and great. This will give them greater ownership and investment in success, ensuring there’s no confusion about performance and comportment as they relate to the team charter and the overall project’s success.

    4 – Include rules around team meetings

    Have you ever wasted your time in a shit meeting? I’ve never asked this question without a big show of hands going up around the room.  Part of your team charter needs to set some rules around meetings, which are crucial to the broader team norms.

    Again, this should be decided collectively.  I like to use a nifty coaching tool called ‘1, 2, 4 All’ to facilitate this in client teams.  It allows everyone to contribute, including introverts.  Get the team together and ask them to visualize the perfect meetings to define team norms, including the desired format for common deliverables, recurring workflows, and outcomes. Then, each person writes down the five things that must be true to design this ideal meeting.

    Everyone does this as an individual (1 minute). Then, they partner up with someone else (2 minutes) and get their combined list down to a top five. Following this, they team up with another partnership (4 minutes) and, once again, whittle down their 10 points to five. Finally, the groups of four present their list to the group (All). Everyone agrees on a final consolidated list of five.

    We did this with a client’s team the other day—it took only 20 minutes. Their final top five included having an agenda agreed upon in the meeting, identifying team roles (such as timekeeper and notetaker), and timeliness as part of establishing effective team norms. At my request, they also added scoring for each session. I strongly advise all my clients to do this so that they can check that their meetings are meeting expectations and constantly improving.

    Run your meetings as a Level 10 Meeting

    Why is it Called the Level 10 Meeting?

    Level 10 meetings get their name from one of the agenda’s key items: participants rate the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10 at its conclusion. Typically, scores hover around 7 in the initial meetings – a safe, middle-ground rating. This score often reflects a lack of engagement and a passive approach.

    When I first conduct these meetings with clients, they commonly give a modest score like 7, hedging their bets. I then challenge them, highlighting that they’ve spent 90 minutes acting as passive observers in the meeting. What have they done to elevate the meeting to a 10? Usually, the answer is nothing. In the subsequent Level 10 meeting, they are encouraged to take more personal responsibility. This realisation acts as a wake-up call. Meetings will be ineffective if we allow them to be.

    The Purpose of a Level 10 Meeting

    How you run a meeting mirrors how you run your business. Your company culture is only as strong as the worst behaviour you tolerate. If you don’t respect people’s time, they won’t respect yours. If you arrive late, don’t expect punctuality from others. Everyone can tell the difference between a productive meeting and a poor one. To scale up effectively, you need a meeting framework that is fit for purpose.

    The primary aim of a weekly level 10 meeting is prioritising and resolving the most critical issues not addressed in daily huddles. The Level 10 meeting operates very tactically, ensuring everyone stays focused on team objectives and metrics weekly, reinforcing their priorities.

    5 – Agree on team behaviours

    Maybe you’re in a team that already has core values. Then you might have a list of expected behaviours that comes down from on high. But equally, you might want to agree on your behaviours within your team, with the team leader facilitating this agreement to ensure it aligns with the team’s purpose and goals, emphasising the importance of defining the project team’s purpose. This is a bonding opportunity, a guiding principle for success measurement, and a fundamental element in creating a shared vision for project success. Again, you could use the ‘1, 2, 4 All’ exercise to work out all the positive behaviours you will reward and the negative ones you’ll punish. These can still sit within the overall values and purpose of the company. The team leader plays a crucial role in guiding these discussions, making it easier to establish a team charter that reflects agreed-upon behaviours essential for team success and establishing a cohesive and productive work environment.

    Don’t wimp out on capturing behaviours. Writing down mundane actions like “turn up on time for meetings” or “do agreed pre-read for meetings” is frankly pathetic. New behaviours need to be transformational. At Peer 1, the most impactful change for the entire organisation was the executive team agreeing to a new behaviour we called “no triangulation.

    Commit to Open, Honest Communication

    No triangulation meant the executive team agreed that you wouldn’t have any negative conversations about anyone else unless they were in the room. Decide how you will behave towards each other and commit to open, honest communication.

    This can be particularly challenging for us Anglo-Saxons, as we’re often programmed to avoid candid conversations that make us uncomfortable. Yet, it’s crucial to tackle issues honestly as they arise and address them directly with the person involved rather than talking behind their back. Monitor each other’s adherence to this approach and ensure you practice it correctly before extending it to the wider organisation. You’ll be amazed at how naturally it begins to permeate throughout the organisation if modelled well. It will become your standard operating procedure, day in and day out.

    I’ve witnessed the power of this approach firsthand during my tenure as Managing Director at Peer 1. It’s truly transformational. This concept has been a central theme in many of my talks as a business coach, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For instance, Brendan O’Keefe, Managing Director of Epic CIC, shared with me that ‘no triangulation’ was one of his key takeaways after hearing me speak.

    Epic CIC, formerly part of a council, was transitioning to a mutual, facing significant cultural challenges. Brendan needed team members who were committed to the mission and had the right attitude. After hearing me speak, he began by getting his executive team to commit to this new way of working. He then rolled it out to the entire company, successfully eliminating the gossip and negativity plaguing the old organisation. This is why I love my job!

    One final point – if someone in your Senior Leadership Team cannot commit to zero triangulation, they have no place in your company.

    Culture Design Canvas as a Team Charter Template

    One way to capture your team’s culture is on a culture design canvas.

    Culture Design Canvas Zappos

    The Culture Canvas has been successfully utilised by companies worldwide, including Spotify, Airbnb, Pixar, and Netflix. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. By working through the different columns, you can bring your team culture to life in a palatable, digestible format that’s easy to communicate to your team members. This tool can guide recruitment, onboarding, team member engagement, management training, and more.

    You start by completing the centre column, then rotate from psychological safety to norms and rules counterclockwise.

    Work on your team’s meeting rhythm. In addition to committing to daily huddles, consider Monday team meetings and opportunities on Friday to celebrate. These are all part of the rituals that bind teams together. Establishing and adhering to agreed-upon behaviours is crucial in understanding and achieving the team’s purpose, ensuring every team member is aligned with the overarching objectives.

    6 – Build psychological safety

    Psychological safety is essential to healthy team dynamics, and your team charter needs to identify ways to build it to support achieving the team’s purpose. Defining the team’s purpose is critical in creating a team charter, as it establishes a shared vision for project success and improves communication among team members. You might already have trust in your team or need to work on this. And this aspect of team dynamics needs leadership – it will be hard to fix without a strong steer from the top. Team leaders need to walk the walk. They can’t expect anyone else to be different if they’re personally casual with their commitments.

    Agree on how you’re going to give and receive feedback. Just carving space to give feedback constructively can do so much for psychological safety and is integral to fostering an environment where team members feel safe to contribute towards the team’s goals. This, along with the Working Genius exercise mentioned earlier, will help define roles and responsibilities, too. You can work together to identify what drives you mad and how you will support each other when you can’t do much about these things. It’s in these tricky moments that a strong team dynamic pays dividends.

    Overcome the challenges stopping you from reaching your full potential. Learn more about...

    Written by business coach and CEO mentor Dominic Monkhouse. Read his new book, Mind Your F**king Business here.

      Fantastic! Give us your details and we'll call you back

        Enquiry | Scaling Up Master Business Course