10 Tips for Using Guidelines

Guidelines in Life

Using guidelines during a learning or work event can be extremely helpful (and sometimes paramount to a successful session!). Below are a few things to keep in mind for ensuring they are relevant, needed, and meaningful.

  1. Use Guidelines for especially difficult groups or topics, multi-day events, or when you think issues around power may arise. Generally, shorter events don’t have Guidelines.
  2. Use Operational Guidelines that everyone understands will always be used for regular meetings. It would be healthy to create these with the group initially, and then check in again as needed. They can be read aloud and changed as needed.
  3. Always invite the group to suggest most of the guidelines. It’s good to start off with one or two that are important to you, but then the rest should come from the group.
  4. Always make sure that every individual agrees to the list generated. I sometimes ask people to raise their hands or nod their head if I know the guidelines are critical or were not easy to write. This should be done quickly, but then you really know everyone has agreed and you can hold them accountable.
  5. Post the guidelines somewhere visible to all. It is important that you be able to gesture to them as you read them, and that people can remind themselves, as needed what they promised.
  6. Take time agreeing on “the cellphone issue.” Everyone has different ideas about this and the issue can carry emotional “energy,” so it is best to really open it up to make sure there is true agreement.
  7. For a multi-day event, check in at the beginning of each day to see what needs to be added or changed, and to make sure everyone is still in agreement.
  8. On the first day of a multi-day event or even on a 1-day event, check in with the list (quickly) after lunch. Sometimes things change or something happens around which people realize they need a new guideline.
  9. If someone is not following the guidelines, it is best to first check in with them privately. Sometimes people forget or misunderstand guidelines and just need to be reminded. Sometimes they don’t really believe they are “serious,” in which case you will need to clarify this.
  10. I always include a guideline about personal needs:  “Attend to your personal needs.” This gives people “permission” to stand when needed, get a coffee or go to the bathroom without having to ask.

What would you add?


Blog post author Jeanette Romkema is teaching Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 13-16, 2012. Please join us!

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