Leading a team? Group Guidelines will make your job easier.


Ever been at a meeting where you've experienced:

  • one person being dominant - talking over others - taking 95% of the airspace

  • team members not expressing how they really feel

  • team members being consistently late or leaving early

  • team members distracted by their phones

In my experience these are not isolated behaviours to any one group or team. They can be frustrating and lead to unnecessary conflict and a lack of productivity. I recommend spending extra time in two or three of your meetings or practices at the beginning of the season considering Guidelines. Once you sort these out with your team, the rest of your meetings—and season—will go a lot more smoothly.

Guidelines establish a baseline for behaviour and set group norms. They should be developed by the group that is agreeing to them, not created as a solo exercise by you or even with just the other coaches. You need your team’s buy-in for this to work. Once established the pressure of policing behaviour is taken away from the team’s leadership and the entire group can hold each other accountable by referring back to the agreed upon list if necessary. It is also so handy for team members to have the reminder of their agreement for example to monitor how much air time they are taking up or to put their phones away.

It’s a good idea to set up guidelines for:

·       Team meetings

·       Games

·       Practices/Training

·       Communication

Guidelines allow for predictability in these environments and create trust.

When creating the guidelines with your team, try to avoid vague principles such as “Be respectful,” because phrases such as these mean something different to everyone. Each guideline should be clear and simple. If someone suggests something vague, like “Be respectful,” you can say, “Can you tell me what that looks like?” They might answer, “Don’t roll your eyes” or, “Listen before responding” or, “Don’t interrupt.” These clarified meanings will help you and the rest of the team understand what “respect” means to the person suggesting it. The guidelines must also be specific in order for people to know exactly what to do (or not do) to follow them.

 Start with creating guidelines for the meetings. Guidelines can be established for practices and games in a subsequent meeting. You might have time to create all of these guidelines in your first meeting. Keep the discussion moving, but don’t rush it. This is some of the most important work you’ll do with your team all season. Do you have to create guidelines for each of these scenarios? I would recommend it, but it’s really up to you and your team as to what makes sense for you.

Examples of meeting guidelines I use and have seen used successfully are:

1.   Confidentiality – What is said in the room stays in the room unless everyone agrees to share the information outside the group

2.   Listen to understand

3.   Focus on the future

4.   One person speaks at a time

5.   No blaming or shaming

6.   Give feedback, not criticism

7.   Take a break if you need one

8.   Phones away – in bags or with facilitator

9.   Allow facilitator to manage the meeting (e.g., call breaks if necessary, move people along if going off topic or taking too long)

Here is another example that a soccer team I worked with recently developed.

1.   Phones away

2.   Listen to understand; don’t interrupt

3.   Speak up if you disagree

4.   Be honest

5.   Take a break if you need one

6.   Use creativity in finding solutions

7.   Focus on the future

8.   Attend all team meetings (attendance is mandatory)

9.   What’s said in the room stays in the room

 Here are the additional guidelines this team created:


1.   Arrive on time

2.   Give your full effort

3.   Offer encouragement

4.   Offer feedback, not criticism

5.   Use empathy


1.   Show the refs respect at all times by shaking hands, accepting calls and thanking them after games

2.   Show opposing team and coaches respect by helping players up regardless of the team they are on

3.   Offer encouragement to teammates for good plays and mistakes

4.   Cheer from the bench at all times

5.   High-five with entire team as we go on and off the field


1.   Speak directly to individuals

2.   Have tricky conversations face to face

3.   Keep availability up to date for games and practices

4.   Check in with coach individually before and after games

I strongly recommend creating guidelines for communication, as this team did, as all conflict is resolved in conversations.

Guidelines such as these are the oil that your team and meetings will run on. You’d be surprised how putting these together at the beginning of your season can change things—and make your job easier!

Nadia KybaComment