Most people bemoan the number of meetings on their calendars, but often it’s not the number of meetings that bothers them – it’s the quality. People are tired of boring, circular, unproductive meetings. They long for valuable discussions that move the business forward. You’ll greatly improve your discussions by tailoring your meetings so that their objectives are aligned with the content, frequency, and duration of your meetings.

Roger Schwartz, an organizational psychologist and president/CEO of Roger Schwarz & Associates, has developed a set of eight research-inspired ground rules in his more than 30 years of working with leadership teams. These rules, or behaviors, help teams improve their performance, working relationships, and individual well-being during meetings.

  • State views and ask genuine questions. The team will shift from monologues and arguments to a conversation in which members can understand everyone’s point of view and be curious about the differences in their views. It involves agreeing on a set of ground rules.
  • Share all relevant information. The team should develop a comprehensive, common set of information with which to solve problems and make decisions. In other words, develop a team mindset that is congruent with the ground rules.
  • Use specific examples and agree on what important words mean. This ensures that all team members are using the same words to mean the same thing.
  • Explain reasoning and intent. This helps members better understand how others reached their conclusions and see where team members’ reasoning differs. Everyone is responsible for helping each team member understand and use the ground rules.
  • Focus on interests, not positions. By moving from arguing about solutions to identifying needs that must be met in order to solve a problem, you reduce unproductive conflict and increase your ability to develop solutions that the full team is committed to.
  • Test assumptions and inferences. This helps the team make decisions with valid information rather than with members’ private stories about what other team members believe and what their motives are.
  • Jointly design next steps. This keeps everyone committed to moving forward together as a team.
  • Discuss undiscussable issues. Teams must addresses the important but undiscussed issues that are hindering its results and that can only be resolved in a team meeting.

Editor’s Note: Roger Schwarz is the author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results. For more, visit or find him on Twitter @LeadSmarter.)