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What Agreements Have Shifted In Your Team, Family, Workplace That You Haven’t Noticed?


On Saturday night we had a family meeting.

We've spent eight weeks in lockdown: a completely novel environment. We’ve had home-schooling, working from home and managing lots of relationship and family dynamics.

Starting the journey back to ‘normal’ we realised we had to update the agreements that define how we work and interact with each other.

The kids were getting narcky, the parents getting cross and everyone was frustrated. Things just weren’t working the way they used to, the way they are meant to and it was getting worse because we were on the path back to the kinds of structures and regimes we’d had before (see HERE for a piece on the psychological impact of heading back to normal... the “dreaded third quarter”!)

The agreements around who did what and how we did them had shifted and we were operating under old agreements that were no longer valid. We just hadn’t noticed.

The same thing is occurring in our workplaces.

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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

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In my family, we made an agreement that we were going to talk kindly and respectfully to each other (it applies to both kids and parents)!

Making that agreement has given everyone legitimacy and a language with which to hold each other to account for how we are being with each other. It’s also less personal (so both easier and more effective) because we struck a public agreement to do so.

Critically, we discussed what talking ‘kindly and respectfully’ to each other looks like in reality – in day-to-day life. This is a step I often see missed but it’s a bit like mixing the cake and forgetting to put it in the oven. You need to talk about what it looks like when we DO talk ’kindly and respectfully’ to each other, and when you DON’T. (Click HERE for a short marketing video from a workshop I did helping a team create exactly these kinds of agreements, but I’ve loads of resources on this so feel free to contact me.)

Implicit Agreements

In many cases, the agreements we have with each other are implicit; they’ve never been articulated. Appropriate for when they were made (or just assumed) we rarely notice them because they are the water we swim in.

These agreements represent the bulk of what makes groups work (and not work). Now, like a comfortable piece of clothing we used to love some of them are starting to chafe and rub. This process has been radically accelerated by COVID-19 (see HERE on the role of pandemics in accelerating trends).    There are also some deep and fundamental implicit agreements that are newly under scrutiny (for example, see HERE on the role of COVID-19 in undermining gender equity).

Instead of resisting the chaffing of agreements that have surreptitiously slipped past their used-by date, we need to go back and re-examine them.

Renegotiate them.

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If you do go back and let others honestly bring-up both agreements for renegotiation, both those that are both well-formed and those that have never addressed before, and you enter that process in good faith, the rewards for you and your team can be immense.

In my family it has led to a new level of clarity I think everyone is finding both a relief and a bit liberating... even if I did end up with an agreement to do the dishes!