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Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. Simple rules for great meetings and teams

Rugby players during a rough play

Working together is hard. Running an effective meeting can be even harder.

One of the challenges is that everyone wants to be heard. To make it even more challenging, not everyone speaks up.

Setting a few ground rules is one of the surest ways to get everyone engaged while producing amazing results. Let it be known that you expect full engagement and expect everyone to be pulling in the same direction.

My favorite set of ground rules comes out of the “New Games” movement from the 70’s. Their motto was Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. I can’t think of a better set of guiding principles for great meetings and vibrant teams.

Play Hard

Bring your A-game. Come prepared and engage fully when you get there. This is serious business — our company and our livelihoods are at stake. If you do this well, it’s not only serious business, but it can be serious fun as well.

Speak up. This is a good time to remind your team of the differences in how introverts and extraverts think. Introverts need to process their thoughts internally before they articulate them.

Introverts, take the time you need to get your thoughts in order, but then bring them to the table. Don’t hold back and don’t wait to be asked. Circle back as your ideas become more cogent — even an hour or a day later, if necessary.

Play Fair

Success is a team sport. No politics and no dirty pool. Put the team first, ahead of your own goals and ambitions. Keep your eye on the team and never lose sight of the client or customer. In the end what matters most is that the team performs at its very best.

In order to have a fair game, everyone needs to understand the objectives. To keep people focused on the goal, they have to know what the goal is. Make sure the purpose of the meeting is clear from the outset. Why are we here? What is the desired outcome? What are the expectations and time frames for next actions?

Nobody Hurt

It’s not personal. We’re wrestling with ideas here. Address ideas, not people. Pick apart things that don’t make sense and build on the things that do.

On the flip side, don’t let anyone make you feel like you are being attacked. People say things. Sometimes they will say things that hurt, that strike a nerve. It can sting to have your ideas criticized. Try to get over that — they’re just ideas. Healthy dialogue and criticism are a crucible that makes ideas — and teams — better.

Whatever you do, don’t take it personal. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” Don’t give people permission to hurt you. Engage in the arena of ideas and leave it there.

Next Steps

  1. Write these three simple ground rules on the board at the beginning of your next meeting: Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt.
  2. Briefly explain each rule.
  3. Watch the creativity fly and the engagement soar.

May your meetings be filled with vim and vigor, and may your results be outstanding.

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