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December 2018
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TD Magazine

Group Commitments

The situation

You're about to lead a course and want to keep the room as orderly as possible. But few people enjoy reviewing a list of rules at the beginning of a course. How can you set boundaries that people will honor?

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The trick

You can set rules in place without being the bad guy, but you have to be careful. The moment participants disagree with authority is when the entire class gets out of hand, so meet them in the middle. Here's how:

  1. The first step to setting guidelines is to frame them positively. Nobody really wants to hear about rules, so refer to them as group commitments instead.
  2. Allow learners to decide what they want to commit to. One idea is to make a flip chart, title it "group commitments," and let them decide what to include.
  3. Make sure everyone agrees to the list. Ask the learners, "Can we all, including myself, commit to this?"—and make sure they offer some sign of approval, even if it's just a head nod.
  4. Remind learners of the commitments early and often. If at any point someone is acting up, remind everyone of what they agreed to. You don't even have to outline the rule or directly address the person. In fact, learners often will police each other because they were the ones who created the rules in the first place.

Pro tip

Even though you're giving learners rule-making authority, don't be afraid to chime in. When they appear done, ask them how they feel about a rule that you want to put in place—without telling them that you want it ­implemented—and let them decide whether it's a good idea.

About the Author

Nelson R. Santiago is a talent and leadership development leader with more than 20 years of experience working with all organizational levels creating, promoting, and delivering training solutions designed to enhance organizations’ business and strategic plans. Nelson is passionate about creating an interactive and authentic learning environment that supports development and employee engagement. Currently, Nelson is an internal ATD Faciliator. Prior to this role, Nelson served at several government agencies, including North Carolina Municipalities, the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of North Carolina Human Resources, and the Abu Dhabi government. Nelson has worked with multiple organizations in over 35 countries, designing and delivering programs in leadership and management development, team building, compliance, communications, customer service, change management, performance management, and many other topics. His work has always been focused on meeting the strategic needs of the organization. Nelson’s outstanding strengths include leadership, communication, facilitation, coaching, and emotional intelligence. Nelson currently holds certifications as ATD Master Trainer, DDI Certified Facilitator, and Gallup’s Certified Strengths Coach.

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