December 20, 2014

Building an Agreement

The agreements reached by unit-based teams create a safe environment for people to work together and to participate fully. Getting agreement on what to do and how to do it is one of the team co-leads' key responsibilities.

Remember—big, complicated agreements come from a series of smaller agreements.

The three steps listed here, with examples of what it might sound like in action, can be used when you are facilitating a meeting or when two or more people want to create an agreement.

Present a proposal
What do you want a person or a group to agree to?

  • "Since we all learn differently, we will try to present the information in a variety of ways. If you are not getting your needs met, despite the variety of learning formats, please take responsibility for your own learning by asking for what you need."
  • "I think it would be helpful for the labor co-lead to create he agenda for our monthly meeting and others can give her input."

Check for understanding
Make sure everyone is clear on what they are agreeing to so they can start to take action immediately.

  • "Is there anyone who is unclear about what we've agreed to?"
  • "What questions do you have about my suggestion for you to draft the agenda?"

Check for agreement
This is a critical step. Look at each person.

  • "Is there anyone who cannot agree to this proposal?"
  • "So, do we have an agreement that you will create the agenda for next month's meeting with input from the others?"

It's also important to remember not to rush the process. A few tips to remember:

  • Pause long enough for people to frame their questions or objections.
  • If the agreement is complicated, check for understanding by having the person or a team member summarize it.
  • If you use the thumbs-up method of testing for consensus, make sure you look at each person's thumb.

For an easy-to-print version of the information on this page, download the Steps to Build an Agreement tool.