In certain situations, I include a working agreement at the start of my training.  One of the items on the working agreement is “On Time”, where I ask for at least three options to self choose from if you are late returning from a break.  Over the years, I’ve received a wide range of suggestions:

  • Dramatic Apology
  • Pushups
  • Sing a song
  • Tell a joke
  • Call someone (family member, an ex, etc)
  • Social Media Takeover
  • Simple I’m sorry

I do not care what suggestions are provided.  I ask for agreement, if not in agreement to being able to select one (if you are late) then what would need to be added for you to agree.  People have taken me up on the adding another option. I typically expect that to be something very simple but usually when it does happen people go further (burpees, impersonation, etc).

Now most people assume this is intended to inflict consequences.  That is not the perspective I take with this (and is part of the training, which is why I do this exercise). So this is how I incorporate the key lesson:

  1. At the start of the training, review the working agreement.
  2. Ask for the suggestions regarding being late (as noted above)
  3. If you are not in the middle of speaking…when someone is late, casually walk near the working agreement.  Do not say anything but wait for them to select.  If you are in the middle of speaking, finish. Then casually walk near the working agreement.  Do not say anything but wait for them to select.
  4. Option selected and completed.
  5. If this is super early in the training, Clap then move immediately onto a topic.  If this is much later, clap and highlight the key point.
  6. Key point:  Practices such as working agreements and team charters are only as good as people willing to leverage them.  Often we approach them with how can we hold each other accountable. I try to create environments where people can visibly hold themselves accountable to what was agreed upon.  When a person is late and selects an option (without crying or throwing a tantrum, etc) they are telling the team, I’m in.  This team is important and what we discussed is important.  I leverage black and white aspects such as on time because it’s very clear – where you on time or not.  There may be a completely appropriate and valid reason why you were late but you were late and it had an impact…acknowledge it.  This provides a pattern of behavior that for more difficult grey topics such as high quality (which written like that is a bad item but that’s a different post), you are more willing to approach a teammate.  They have already demonstrated that they truly invest in what was agreed upon.  So I don’t think of this as consequences but as a way to show teammates their commitment without anyone enforcing it.
  7. Bonus:  As a leader (trainer), when I mess up (not even being late but any kind of screw up), I will select one of the options.  This reinforces the simple way to show investment and they typically clap for me too!

How might you leverage this exercise?


Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.

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