How To Create A (Killer) Team Charter

I used to think that having a business plan was a waste of time. After all, the plan will change because life changes, the competitive landscape changes, so adhering to a strict business plan would be akin to hammering a square peg in a round hole. Right?

Not exactly.

It’s not the actual business plan itself that’s valuable as it is the thinking process behind it.

Drilling down into the problems you solve for, the uniqueness of your service, and establishing a brand identity are invaluable for any business. And you know what? Teams benefit the same way.

However, when it comes to teams (a leadership team, project team, or management team, for example) it’s not so much a business plan but an operating plan; a document that governs and guides how they work together and what’s to be achieved. In team coaching parlance, this is known as a team charter.

The exact format of a team charter varies from team to team. Just as a business plan, you can delve into the weeds or stay at the 10,000-foot level. The degree of specificity is up to you (and your team), but suffice to say that the more detailed you get, the more clarity you —and the team—will have.

Clarity provides meaning and meaning creates direction.

Just like writing a business plan or hosting an AAR, it’s the process of creating a team charter that’s so valuable—thinking through, discussing, and agreeing on what makes your team a real team and how it will continue teaming. The simple process of flushing out these ideals will pay dividends in terms of unearthing group and team dynamics and creating optimal results.

A team charter is best conceived during a team (re)launch as it can then be used to pave the way for the team to create its own path and direction forward as well as blend different cultures (think of an M&A situation). At its core, a team charter brings together a group of individuals and binds them as a team (as long as the task warrants a team approach, of course).

Real quick, I’m hosting a free live evolution that will guide you through how to think about teams and hwo to build high performing teams. Learn more here.

In the SEALs, we had an OPORD, which is acronym-speak for OPerational ORDer. Think of it as the blueprint for a house except this was the blueprint for how we would execute our next mission.

An OPORD typically consisted of the 5Ws & H but in extremely detailed format. We (everybody who was part of the mission whether it was operators, support, or enablers) needed to know not just what we were responsible for as individuals and as a team, but what “higher-ups” were expecting, what we needed to look for while on target, how our mission fit into other missions, and, most importantly, why the mission was important to begin with.

Knowing why is a force multiplier no matter what industry you’re in because, as I shared in my book Navigating Chaos when you know why, you know more; when you know more, you have the capacity to do more—and that’s a win.

Anyway, a team charter works very similarly to an OPORD. Just as we needed to know who was going on the mission, what infil routes we would take to get to the target, the areas of responsibility for each team member and the teams involved, so too does your team.

And I don’t care whether it’s a senior leadership team, project management team, marketing team, or sales team, it’s not enough for you to know the path ahead. Your team does, too. A team needs a plan if it plans to win. Period.

And specifically, here’s what a team charter helps the team understand:

  • Clarifies the purpose of the team
  • Establishes the scope of work
  • Aids in decision making design and selecting participants
  • Clarifies roles and responsibilities
  • Clearly defines expectations and accomplishments
  • Outlines the team’s strategy
  • Measures deliverables

Here’s an example of one of the areas of a team charter:

If you’d like to design your own team charter for your team, I’ll be hosting a live virtual training evolution where I’ll walk you through how to strategically think about leading and managing your team. It’ll be live (and free) and only last about 30 minutes with another 15 minutes slotted for Q&A. So, bring your questions, challenges, or discussion topics and we’ll address them all at the end (as well as anything else from the virtual training).

Here’s the signup link:

Team Building For New Managers: How To Build High Performing Teams

See you there!

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