The Power of a Team Charter & How to Create OneExperts Future of Work Guides Managing Teams
Ali Greene is the coauthor of Remote Works: Managing for Freedom, Flexibility, and Focus. A remote worker since 2014, she was previously the Director of People Operations for DuckDuckGo and the former Head of Culture and Community at Oyster. Ali can be found at remoteworksbook.com.
What does it look like to be a "high performing team"? For many companies, this is a goal, but in reality, it can be hard to visualize. The removal of fake metrics, such as high fives across cubicle walls, makes it an even more difficult picture to paint for distributed organizations.
On the subject of remote work, an individualized approach is often touted as a main benefit; the lifestyle that follows is one of choice, freedom, and flexibility. When workers have the ability to choose where, when, and how they get their work done, what is the impact of the team?
That is something I explored in my recently released book, Remote Works. When shifting to a digital workplace, performance is shown in outputs and flow. Rather than seeing your team packed in conference rooms collaborating on whiteboards, you’ll see the team respecting one another’s autonomy and collaborating seamlessly online.
The good news! According to Forbes, there are five characteristics of a high-performing team: trust, clear communication, defined roles and responsibilities, engaged leadership and collective goals. All of these things describe characteristics in human behavior, not physical space, that can equally be achieved in a remote or hybrid work environment.
Defining these terms and distilling down into standard operating behaviors (e.g., the actions that are rewarded and accepted by others), is where the magic happens. Enter: The Team Charter
What is a Team Charter?
A Team Charter is a document that describes the team's norms, expectations, and standard operating behaviors; it defines your team’s direction while also explicitly stating boundaries.
Examples include Gitlab’s many team charters, all located in the open-source handbook; for instance, their Marketing Strategy & Platforms Team Charter and Better Work’s Team Charter Template on Miro.
Why do you need a Team Charter?
A Team Charter is useful in the Norming stage of team development. It is at this stage that the remote best practices that work for your team become codified as expectations. This stage is a precursor to being high-performing; once the stage is set and everyone understands how they should be collaborating together, it is easier to focus on the work itself.
This virtual artifact acts as a way to visually solidify that agreement, which can help build trust on the team through shared expectations and more clearly identify any nuances in your team’s approach to communication, roles and responsibilities, and the shared mission.
For example, when I was managing a team of five international employees at a fully distributed company, we noticed most teams held weekly hour-long team meetings, but our team—the People Operations team—had two a month instead: one was 30 minutes and was a social connection point and a quick check-in on company culture and our team goals; the other was 90 minutes and was focused more on learning and development and sharing knowledge between team members. The team members were better able to understand our methods of operation because of this expectation and the subsequent documentation of it on our calendars.
How do you make a Team Charter?
We recommend that you make a Team Charter through a collaborative brainstorming process, allowing each team member to reflect individually on what they have been noticing as common behaviors on the team and then regrouping in a synchronous or in-person meeting to discuss themes and potential points of disagreement.
Once a clear expectation has been set, make sure that it is included in the Team Charter using specific and straightforward language to enhance shared understanding.
While there are many topics and themes that can be covered in a Team Charter, below is a list of 5 common areas to explore to get you started:
- Purpose. Define the team's goal and mission.
- Learning. Identify areas of skill-building for the team. What competencies are needed to be successful?
- Meetings. This can be a triggering topic, but most simply define how often, when, and for what?
- Collaboration and documentation. Determine the need for synchronization throughout the day, and make sure to spend time defining both the behaviors and the tools you will use. Additionally, ensure there is accountability around managing documentation.
- Building culture. Don’t just stop at the Standard Operating Behaviors! Discuss what artifacts exist and what rituals you want to create.
Interested in digging deeper into remote teams? Check out our book, Remote Works: Managing for Freedom, Flexibility, and Focus, available today on Amazon, as well as other book distributors.