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Honoring Agreements

Honoring Agreements is a Collaborating Skill. “Following through keeps us true.”


How do I honor my agreements with integrity?

Honoring Agreements means saying what you mean and doing what you say. Be clear and communicate early what you can and cannot do so that others know what to expect of you. Holding someone accountable means asking for clear communication without judgment. Honoring Agreements does NOT mean agreements are set in stone but rather they evolve. Let others know when the agreements can’t be met and set a new agreement.

Why Honoring Agreements — The Science

  • When people are held accountable for both their outcomes and the process they use, they achieve better outcomes and share knowledge more than when the focus is on one or the other. 
  • When learning environments change, the implicit ground rules and agreements are not necessarily shared. Renegotiation of these agreements helps the group adapt.
  • Teams perform better when they confront each other if they break norms


  1. Chang W, Atanasov P, Patil S, Mellers BA, Tetlock PE. Accountability and adaptive performance under uncertainty: A long-term view. Judgment & Decision Making. 2017;12(6).
  2.  Staarman JK. The Joint Negotiation of Ground Rules: Establishing a Shared Collaborative Practice with New Educational Technology. Language and Education, 2009;23(1)79-95.
  3. Druskat VU, Kayes DC. Learning versus Performance in Short-Term Project Teams. Small group research. 2016;31(3):328–353.

How to Practice-Model-Coach
Honoring Agreements


  • Consider the impact of honoring your agreements, or when you or others neglect honoring agreements. How does it feel to tell someone you will do something and then not do it? What is the impact on you and others when you complete something on time and a job well done? How does it feel when someone has committed to an appointment with you and doesn’t show up or is very late? Or someone has committed to finishing a task and doesn’t tell you they can’t make the deadline?
  • Regular communication: We find ourselves most often “out of agreements” if we have too many competing priorities and are “fighting fires” all the time.  Checking in regularly and comparing progress to priorities helps all involved to build accountability.


  • Match your words to your actions. If others hear you say that Integrity is important to you, and hear you say that you are taking difficult actions because of your integrity, they are more likely to understand what integrity is and adopt it as a value. 
  • Holding each other accountable: When someone has not met an agreement, it is helpful to be curious about where things stand and ask directly. When one of your group agreements is not being honored, verbally name what agreement is not being met, and seek clarity.  Inquiring about the undone task or unmet cultural agreement makes room for a clarifying conversation. It lets the other person know that you care enough to say something. This also means following on holding each other accountable, using through with the agreement made for that process. 
  • Own up to your own mistakes. If you do not meet one of your agreements, name that for those in the group and take the next steps to help show them how to hold you accountable. 
  • Mining for conflict: If you search for what is not working in the family or group and speak up about it openly, clarification becomes easier. Inquiring authentically about hidden (or not so hidden) conflict reduces reactivity between you and others because you are asking to solve it together. When something is not working for you, how open are you to communicating about what is not working for you and why? 
  • Update communication:   As soon as you know that you can’t meet a deadline, communicate clearly that you can’t and update others on when you can commit to having it done, or partially done if appropriate.
  • Reviewing agreements. It is extremely helpful to speak agreements aloud on a timely basis. Set a regular time for this to be done in a structured way (once a week, before a meeting or fun event). Take turns having someone read the agreements aloud so everyone can see, hear, and feel their relevance. 
  • Renegotiating agreements: It is good practice to revisit your family or group agreements regularly. Family or group members’ needs and activities change over time.  After you discuss them, the group can make new commitments to the revised set of agreements. 


  • When others in your group do not meet an agreement, ask group members to help hold others accountable in the manner that you have agreed to together. 
  • Work with others to ensure that they have clear communication with their friends so that they can “do what they say and say what they are going to do.’

Resources for Honoring Agreements




  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni (summary)
  • How Did That Happen? Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way, by Roger Connors and Tom Smith
  • The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflections from Social Justice Educators, edited by Lisa M. Landreman

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