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Seeking Agreements

Seeking Agreements is a Collaborating Skill. “Same page, same chapter, same book.”


What explicit agreements do we need so we can work well together?

Seeking Agreements involves defining agreements that help the family or group get along and enjoy each other. Working well together includes two types of agreements,  First, those needed for the tasks,  for getting the work done: who will be doing what, how, and when will they do it?  Second, it also involves cultural agreements for how group members will interact with each other, including group tone, interaction, acceptable language, and behavioral norms.  Since implicit expectations create misunderstandings, make agreements explicit. Have clear boundaries to build emotional safety

Why Seeking Agreements — The Science

  • When organizations have agreements between goals, performance and reward systems, and the organizational culture, people cooperate better and the organization performs better.
  • Groups that create agreements on ground rules at the start were more positive about the process of working together. The process helps team members think about their expectations for the team.
  • Groups that create team charters of agreements are better able to handle disruptive events and thus perform better
  • When teams have a shared understanding, they are better motivated to focus on their collective performance goals.


  1. Sender SW. Systematic Agreement: A Theory of Organizational Alignment. Human Resource Development Quarterly 1997;(8)1: 23-40.
  2. Whatley J. Ground Rules in Team Projects: Findings from a Prototype System to Support Students. Journal of Information Technology Education 2009;(8):161-76..
  3.  Sverdrup TE, Schei V, Tjølsen ØA. Expecting the unexpected: Using team charters to handle disruptions and facilitate team performance. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice. 2017;(1):53.
  4.  Aubé CR, Rousseau V, Brunelle E, Marques D. The Relevance of Being “on the Same Page” to Succeed as a Project Team: A Moderated Mediation Model. Motivation and Emotion. 2018;(42)6: 804-815.

How to Practice-Model-Coach
Seeking Agreements


  • Think about group activities that you have done recently—perhaps with your family, in school, at work, or with friends. Was everyone in agreement about what you were going to do in advance?  Did you spell out the agreements clearly? If not, were some people disappointed or frustrated with how the activity occurred? What agreements might have been helpful to avoid this?
  • When things are unclear and create conflict with members of your group, ask for clarification in the moment and create an agreement on how to move forward. 


  • Share times when you have had a misunderstanding with others and how you created agreements to move past the misunderstanding. 
  • Create family or group agreements. Set aside time to create Family or Group Agreements together. Ask for input from all members of your family or group. These agreements include how you want to be together and also what you agree to if the agreements are not honored. 
  • Posting agreements. After your family or group has defined its agreements, post them where they are easily visible.


  • Help others think about implicit agreements they may or may be missing with their friends. Can they make those agreements more explicit? Do they have expectations they have not voiced?  Help them name and voice their expectations and assumptions and think about a way of talking about them with their friends.
  • Help others come up with their own SMART goals:  Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. SMART goals are great building blocks for success.

Resources for Seeking Agreements