John Ainley: Why a team charter can deliver better decision making

On a riverside meadow near the Thames in 1215, King John – under huge pressure by the baronial classes to curb his alleged abuse of royal power – put his seal to English history’s most famous charter; the Magna Carta (or Great Charter).

While the success of the Magna Carta itself will always be the subject of fierce historical debate, the use of a charter in the modern business can be a very effective tool for leaders and CEOs looking to set clear ground rules to get the best from their working as a team.

Pretence harmony

Many leadership teams exist in a state of ‘Pretence harmony’. On the face of things they look like they all get on and are comfortable to raise any issue but underneath the facade, the challenging conversations that every business must have to reach the best decisions are not taking place because protection of patch, individual egos, or the need to ‘always be right’ get in the way. One of the many value adding approaches we create with leadership teams are ground rules to help leadership teams have the necessary uncomfortable or challenging conversations. We find an agreed team charter can be extremely helpful.

Create your own charter

As a CEO you can co-create with your team the ‘rules of the game’ that govern how your leadership team operates and performs. Think about the best teams you have ever worked in; what traits did you admire and would like to bring to your own leadership team? What should your team be doing differently to have those difficult conversations and work more effectively? By incorporating these views and working with the team to establish a set of rules, you can create a team charter that makes explicit how you want the team to function.

A FTSE client I work with has recently established their own team charter establishing a clear set of ground rules to their meetings, to include conditions such as:

  • Seek to understand before judging
  • Give direct performance improving feedback to each other
  • Challenge and support each other
  • Hold strong opinions, but lightly
  • Role model the behaviours we expect to see around the business.

Other charters we have helped teams develop include ways of increasing the focus on the customer; being authentic in meetings; and creating better ways of giving feedback that have more of a positive intent.

Let relationships flourish

Ultimately, the success of any leadership team is in the quality of the relationships and a well developed charter can be a major step in creating the right environment for those relationships to flourish; while also curbing the excesses of the most tin eared leaders…just ask King John.