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There really should be an 'I' in team: The team agreement

Illustration of four workers in an office environment creating a schedule on a calendar.|Illustration of four team members working together in an office setting.|Illustration of three team members in blue, two balancing the other on a triangular shaped object.

Many of us have navigated our professional lives while being told there’s no “I” in team. I’d like to make the case for the opposite: it’s only after we explicitly recognize and name our individual preferences, communication styles, and goals, that we’re truly capable of being contributing team members. At TXI, this is part of our overall DEIB efforts and we bake this in from the start by kicking off all engagements with a Team Agreement.

Interested in creating your own version of a Team Agreement? Here are a few things to consider.

Self-First Isn’t Selfish

Does your team operate with the idea that asking for what you need should be a baseline? When we build out our Team Agreements, we talk about our individual preferences and needs. What are our core hours? When do we want focus time? What is the expectation about when & how often we’ll check Slack? Being explicit about the ways each of us finds our ideal path to productivity helps each of us weigh the impact of team choices on the individual.

Help Me, Help You

If you’re in a role where you’re not doing something that’s just a little bit scary, then you’re probably not growing. Take the time to share your professional intentions with your team so that they can be on the lookout for ways you can level up. Maybe this means you want more time building relationships with clients or pairing time with another developer to become stronger in a new language. A person can’t champion what they don’t know, so make it easier for everyone to support each other’s development. This is how developers wind up in user interviews and product designers pair with QAs.

Four members of a team

It’s Not You, It’s Me

In the absence of a deep understanding of a person’s preferences, we risk operating under false consensus bias and mistakenly believe everyone else thinks the same way we do. It’s not that we don’t appreciate another perspective, but rather we inaccurately assume that our teammates feel the same way. Having discussions about how decisions get made creates healthy patterns to get alignment and establishes norms for getting feedback. At TXI, we discuss all aspects of working together including how integrated teams collaborate, norms for how often we check product releases, and how we signal disagreement.

Warning, Red Alert

Cars have an engine light to warn us of an impending problem. People don’t. That’s why it’s important to ask your teammates how we’ll know when one of us is approaching our limit. Having a neutral way to signal when we’re likely to hit overload is probably one of the best ways to build team safety. For me, this means asking team members to please not schedule meetings late in the day because my brain is spent and I’m more likely to be crabby. For one of my colleagues, this means avoiding scheduling meetings that run up against school drop off.

Teamwork illustration

Share Your Workplace Love Language

People are motivated by different experiences. In your next team agreement meeting, ask your colleagues what affirmation looks like to them. Is it public praise? A small gift that supports their newest hobby? A book the person flagged as interesting? I once found myself nodding in agreement when one of my colleagues outright said they love getting kudos in our Slack general channel. A small gesture, big impact. It doesn’t matter what language resonates with each one of us, but it does matter that appreciation gets expressed in a personal, meaningful way.

Am I Talking About a Thing You Do?

Are you using team agreements in your organization? We’d love to hear more about how this manifests in your company. Let’s connect! You can find me at gayle at txidigital dot com.

Published by Gayle Silverman in Culture

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