CEO Coaching: Rules of Engagement for Hybrid Work

When I work with executive teams on increasing their effectiveness, one of exercises we do is to identify the “rules of engagement” so that there is clarity about how people interact with each other. Some examples of rules are:

> Be prepared for all meetings

> All meetings must have an agenda and clear objectives with a specified outcome

> Meetings will start and end on time

> Each meeting will end with a recap of actions, decisions, ownership and timeline

> There will be a communication plan, when appropriate, considered at each meeting

> There must be an owner/facilitator for every meeting

> The facilitator will “mine for conflict” and ensure that all points of view are heard

> Only the right people should be in meetings

> The chain of command should be respected

> Peers should resolve conflict without engaging their managers where possible

> Fostering or spreading rumors or gossip is inappropriate

Like any other set of guidelines, if you have too many rules, you may as well not have any. In addition, there must be a process to evaluate performance against the rules or they will be ignored. Some clients post them in all meeting rooms. Best practice? Some make a checklist and score themselves after every meeting. Almost guaranteed to change your behavior!

The list above is a good starting point for any company, but there are often nuances to an individual company’s culture that dictate some of the rules. 

In this new fluid work environment with remote and hybrid work taking center stage in many companies (click here for a framework to design your environment), it is important to review and revise the current rules of engagement, or build them from scratch if this is a new concept. 

Some questions for you to consider:

  1. When do we use specific communication tools (e.g., phone, email, text, video, face-to-face)? There is nothing more maddening that opening an email near the end of a busy day that was sent at 9:00 A.M. and says, “Please join our critical meeting on subject X at 9:15.” Long meetings for “here’s what’s new” topics are another time sucker. Send a damn email or even a carrier pigeon!
  2. When do people need to be available. Not just general work hours, but if you need your team to come together quickly, how do you do that? Can I take the dog for a walk any time of day or are their specific times I should be readily available? Can I send email in the middle of the night or does this foster unhealthy habits?
  3. How do we have fun in the new environment? If you are now hiring remote workers around the globe, how do you socialize?
  4. How do we understand and mesh with our customers’ and suppliers’ rules of engagement? What if they conflict with ours?
  5. Healthy conflict is a more difficult with technology “in the way.” How will you make sure that the tough issues still get the vigorous debate that they deserve?

Once again, don’t have more than a few and make sure that you have a vehicle to review your alignment with the rules least they become just one more thing to post and ignore! You’re too busy for that!

I find that companies that spend time on “how the company works” are able to make faster, better decisions, have better follow up, get more done and spend less time in frustration mode. And why would you not want all of that?

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