Setting The Rules Of Engagement


Morag Barrett

28th Apr 2016

1 min read

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I’ve had the opportunity to work for managers (and with colleagues) who assumed I could read their minds, only to have them come down on me like a tonne of bricks when my sixth sense fizzled.

I’ve been guilty of this approach myself. I am not a mind-reader, and I doubt that you are either!

Articulating the rules of engagement sets you up for success, both on the good days when things are going well and, more importantly, during the turbulent times when many of us revert back to inappropriate behaviours (micromanaging, command and control, or passive aggressiveness, to name a few).

In Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships I discuss four conversational strategies for developing allies at work. The most fundamental conversations are those that align expectations and articulate the rules of engagement. “How” we will work together, not just “what” needs to get done.

Rules of engagement could include the following steps:

  • Ensuring that the two parties are in agreement regarding the objectives to be achieved.
  • Agreeing on the levels of authority and decision-making responsibilities.
  • Articulating roles and responsibilities.
  • Understanding individual personality, communication, and decision-making styles, where these are in alignment and where they may be different, and the implications for how values and behaviours will be important to success
  • Meeting cadence – where and how often meetings will occur?
  • Escalation process – when and who to ask for help and provide warnings of impending disaster.
  • Feedback and coaching expectations.

Try these for your next project. By learning to set expectations, you gain clarity about who you can rely on for advice, and who can be a filter for tough decisions.

Your team will also know who can be called on when you don’t know how to solve a problem.

To learn how to set the rules of engagement with a client, email us at For more How To articles, click here.

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