Let’s get real about team agreements

Let’s get real about team agreements

“Don’t assume”
“Don’t judge”
“Don’t take things personally”

These are common requests that people have of each other, often when creating team agreements which are made with the good intentions of creating a great culture. The problem is they are unrealistic and impossible to do. And the sad part is that they can lead to people criticising each other when they do assume, judge or take things personally, when in fact they’re just natural brain functions. It seems the good-intentioned requests open the door to even more assumptions and judgement.

Our brain is designed to do all these things; they are natural and necessary functions and they are happening all the time.

Our exquisite ability to make assumptions makes life so much easier. Assuming helps us get through our days without having to figure out every little detail – imagine if you had to wonder if cars will stop at a red traffic light, if the lift was going to work when you pressed the button, if your wool coat would keep you warm on a winter morning. We would make ourselves crazy if we had to check out every lesson we’ve learned in the past. It’s quite handy and it’s automatic. It’s not possible to stop doing this.

Similarly, for judgement. We must evaluate countless situations and decide whether something is useful or not. Is this good or bad? Is it a good idea to walk down that unlit alley at 2 am? Is that food that doesn’t smell so good OK to eat? Is it a good idea to run the last 3 meters to enter the train whose doors are already closing?

How and why should we stop taking things personally? We usually want to have skin in the game and be engaged in our work – it IS personal. Besides, everything is personal to our emotional brain which makes most of our choices for us. The emotional limbic system’s job is to take care of self; it’s all about personal survival: how does the world impact me and am I going to survive? Of course it takes things personally, that’s its job.

Nevertheless, the intentions of these don’t do it requests are honourable. Assumptions and judgements can take us off-track and they can create misunderstandings and strife. Taking things personally can lead to unpleasant defensive behaviour. It’s the side effects of our brain’s automatic functions that we are really trying to avoid.

So how could we honour the intentions of these requests, realistically?

How about if we stop denying these incredible functions and instead get a little more conscious about them and perhaps learn from them? What if we challenged each other to be curious about our assumptions and judgements and tried to find value in them? What if we appreciated how personally invested we are in our work and accepted that as part of our personal investment we might sometimes be a little sensitive?

Perhaps these might be more realistic requests and agreements instead of all those don’ts:
Notice judgements and include them judiciously.

Let’s check out and challenge assumptions we are making about each other.

When you take things personally, get curious about your own needs and strive to learn from the situation.

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