What is a team (or family) charter?

by Sam on April 22, 2009

Analysis: George Peppard starred as Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith in the ’80s TV comedy-drama-spoof “The A-Team.” The inevitable line spoken by Hannibal at the close of each episode was “I love it when a plan comes together.” Why did the A-Team’s plan always come together? Because each person did exactly what was needed to support other team members in their roles thus empowering the team to accomplish its mission.

A team charter breeds teamwork in two ways. First, it communicates and validates what members can count on receiving from each other in order to fulfill their various roles. Second, it’s a benchmark against which performance feedback can be given and against which members can be held accountable for making team plans come together.

A team charter is not a job description for individual member roles (the what). It is rather a description of the behavioral expectations members have for how colleagues will fulfill their roles.

(NB: This Ask completes point #8 in the “Silos” brief in your March ’09 archives.)

Answer: I’ve helped many groups craft their team charters. Here are the most frequent entries on those documents. The number of items is normally between 8 and 10. Choose or revise what makes sense for your team from this list, and add items unique to your situation.

1. We collectively and energetically work toward company targets that are larger than any of our individual functions.

2. We defend and look out for each other.

3. We share our ideas, opinions, and feelings openly and honestly.

4. When we have issues with each other we speak to the person affected and do not go behind that person’s back to others.

5. We welcome disagreement and diversity of opinion.

6. We debate issues to resolution, and merit most likely wins.

7. We listen to each other.

8. We challenge each other’s assumptions and assertions with directness, courtesy, and respect.

9. We ask each other for help and it is freely given.

10. We make the best use of the talents, skills, and strengths on the team.

11. We support team decisions once they are made.

12. We build each other up through recognition, critique, and even constructive criticism. A

13. We are as eager for each other’s success as we are for our own.

14. We share with each other the resources we need to do our jobs.

15. We keep each other fully informed, respecting each other’s time and priorities.

16. We do a great job of fulfilling each other’s needs and meeting each other’s expectations. We remain fully accountable to each other.

17. We work at improving relationships within the team that are in need. A

18. We resolve destructive conflict that arises out of our disagreements. A

Six actions will help make a team charter a living, breathing document. First, involve the team in its creation; let members declare the behaviors central to mission accomplishment. Second, have everyone on the team sign the final document. Third, keep it out and visible on the walls of the rooms where the team most often meets. Fourth, have the team leader teach a “team charter” class as part of the orientation of all new members. Fifth, every six months have the team rate its collective adherence to the items on the charter followed by specific vows to get better on the lowest scored item. Sixth, blend charter items into the company’s performance appraisal form, or have the team leader give each member personal feedback on living the charter.


Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but look at what they can do when they stick together.

~Vesta M. Kelly


Each answer marked with an A is the subject of a soon-to-appear Ask in the form of a solution tool. Feel free to contact Sam now to learn how that tool might be applied to your team.

Action (yours)

Do you have an Ask for Sam about leadership, team building or communications? Email that question to him at sam@asksamdeep.com. He will respond to you either by email or telephone. Please include your telephone number with your Ask.

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