The Secret to Working Better Together

It’s no secret that for any kind of relationship to work you have to be able to work well together. But you can’t exactly work well together without first establishing your shared values, norms, and expectations. That’s where the power of a working agreement comes in a.k.a. the ground rules that define how couples, groups, and teams work best together. 

I was recently reminded of just how powerful a working agreement can be after my wife and I found ourselves repeatedly miscommunicating about the same thing. Naturally, I suggested that we revisit our current working agreement together so that we could not only resolve the issue at hand but set some ground rules for how to address similar issues down the road. 

Since our main issue was miscommunicating around some pretty mundane house chores, we started by addressing how we want to best communicate everyday messages versus a reminder about what needs to be done and when. Once we agreed on the fact that a reminder or message with more urgency around it should be communicated at a time that relates to the task at hand, we were able to come to a mutual understanding on how to best handle our current issue and ones like it moving forward. 

Of course, keep in mind that working agreements can be made up of many different things for many different people. However, there are 5 components every good working agreement should have:

  • It has to matter to everyone involved – buy-in from the team, group or your partner is critical in sticking to any working agreement so make sure everyone is on the same page before you decide to commit to anything. 

  • Keep it simple and direct – the more simplified your working agreement is, the easier it is to remember and stick to it. 

  • Actions speak louder than words – establishing a working agreement is only half the battle. The other half is making sure it’s followed by everyone involved so make it easy to keep it top of mind by sharing or posting the working agreement where everyone can see it. 

  • Don’t just set it and forget – whether you’re integrating a working agreement at work or in your personal life, it can be easy to let things slide when it’s not top of mind just like my wife and I did. So, include pockets of time to dust off your working agreement periodically as a group to ensure nothing has changed.  

  • Hold each other accountable – since working agreements are owned and set collectively by the individuals involved, everyone involved has the right to question anyone not following the rules. 

  • Now that you know what makes a good working agreement, what changes are you excited to add to your working agreement with your partner or team? Share them in the comments below.   

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