Rules of Engagement

We find ourselves in an increasingly fragmented working environment with global, mobile and virtual teams becoming the norm. Organisational culture is fluid and can be hard to define. Yet we are incredibly connected at the same time with email, SMS, social media, smartphones and iPads.

So what can we do as business leaders to provide guidance and leadership to our people? How do we set the ground rules or ‘rules of engagement’ for a globally distributed team without relying solely on weighty HR policies and procedures?

One approach I have used with some success is to document and circulate a discussion paper on ‘how we agree to work together’.

I have listed some of the key points from my ‘Rules of Engagement’ document below and welcome your feedback.

1. Honesty
Speak the truth- even if it is an unpopular view, or one that identifies a mistake that has been made, or is about to be made. This is important for a team to be able to resolve issues quickly and make better decisions. Imagine trying to be effective with only half the information.

2. Reliability
Do what you said you were going to do. If you run into any obstacles that may prevent you from keeping your agreements, notify the people involved as soon as possible, and offer an alternative solution.

3. Respect
At all times, treat each person with respect: respect for their role, level of responsibility, position in the company, experience and expertise; and respect for the fact that each person is genuinely trying to do their job to the best of their ability.

4. Innovation
Think of new ideas, and new ways to do things. Remember 1000:100:10:1 (Let 1,000 flowers bloom, be willing to consider 100 possibilities, be prepared to invest and road-test 10 of the most promising and then expect to be pleasantly surprised by 1 revolutionary idea.)

5. Fun
Have fun and enjoy the challenge of what you do. This means enjoying the tough stuff as well! The greatest rewards and satisfaction comes from overcoming big obstacles.

6. No Surprises
Particularly in the presence of other colleagues. If there is some news or development in the business, ensure that your team knows about it. Everybody hates finding out about something last- particularly when it is something that affects them or their team.

7. Maturity
This means doing the right thing, and acting responsibly, even if you have not been asked to (and no one is watching!) It also means accepting that not everything will go your way. Some decisions will go against you or your preferred outcome, and that is just a part of life.

8. Accountability
If you have a problem with a particular person- talk to them about it, not others. Tell the person what the problem is, how it affects you, and what you would like to happen differently. Give them the opportunity to explain their point of view and find a suitable outcome together.

9. Confidentiality
Respect confidentiality at all times.

10. Focus on the process- not the people
This means fixing the problem- not the blame.

11. Questions are the answer
Ask questions whenever you do not understand anything. Even if you do understand, ask anyway to gain a deeper understanding.

I hope you found this list helpful. It is not comprehensive, but rather a guide or conversation-starter that I have found incredibly useful when welcoming new members of the team.

What are your ‘Rules Of Engagement’? How do you welcome new team members and induct them into your organisational culture?


Michael Field, Director at?Michael Field Pty Ltd.

About michaelfieldcom

Michael Field is an independent strategy consultant with two decades of experience in strategy, marketing, strategic planning, market research, competitive analysis, needs based segmentation, e-commerce and innovation. His consultancy specialises in providing strategic advice to medium sized B2B and NF organisations. Michael has served as a Non Executive Director (NED) of Save the Children Victoria, is a former Save the Children New South Wales council member and former guest lecturer in marketing, small business promotional marketing and professional communication at ECU in Western Australia. He is the founder of the LinkedIn group Next Director for aspiring and emerging company directors serving more than 4,500 company directors globally. Specialties: - Strategy advice for medium-sized B2B, NFP and member services organisations - Strategic marketing - Market research and analysis - Competitive analysis - Market segmentation - Needs-based segmentation - Development of the value proposition - Marketing and business plans - e-commerce and online strategy development - Social Media - Keynote speaking - Technology and innovation - Ideas and inspiration

4 thoughts on “Rules of Engagement

  1. This is great!

    Another dimension of maturity to note is emotional maturity and self awareness. With every interaction, there’s an event and then how the participants respond: the story they construct to understand the event. An immature person (eg. ‘poor me’ victim mentality) responds very differently to events than someone with a positive attitude, as you’d expect. Taking responsibility for outcomes is probably a good measure of emotional maturity in a business context.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>