Two people putting post it notes on a wall in a conference room

As much as we are experiencing a health crisis right now, we are also experiencing a people crisis. Changes in how we view work and the new expectations mean that the future of work needs to look a lot more “human” than it has in the past.

To thrive through these challenges, leaders must make changes to how their teams operate and interact. Culture and productivity go hand in hand and team dynamics are at the center of it all.

One highly effective tool in making this happen is to work with your team to develop what is known as a Team Charter. A Team Charter is one of the four tenets of Leading Human™ – a systematic approach to help leaders deal with burnout, resignations, and the complications of COVID in the workplace.

What is a Team Charter?

A charter is a set of guiding principles by which the team navigates. Team charters can come in many forms and vary from team to team, because every team is unique. But, they should all explore four key areas of your team – it’s Core Values, Group Norms, Roles and Metrics of Success.

As noted by Jules Nolan, PhD, a charter is not an explicit dictum of the exact rules everyone must follow or the achievements they’re striving for. A charter has more wiggle room because people are not robots and emotions, behaviors, and team dynamics are constantly evolving. Think of the charter as a fluid set of guidelines for how your teams should interact, treat each other, and work together

Your charter helps you understanding how you want to “be” as a team. It provides guidance, not only for how everyone should show up, but also for how to best interact with each other. It is important to have clear expectations for how we interact with each other.

The Purpose of a Team Charter

One of the key purposes of the team charter is to align the team around what they should expect from each other, particularly as it relates to team behaviors and communications. 

While this may seem obvious, we know that oftentimes, people are operating under false assumptions about what others think. The False Consensus Effect is a cognitive bias where we often assume our own behavioral choices and judgements are both appropriate and agreed upon by others.

We think that others think like we do – which is often not the case. 

A team charter helps the team shed light on people’s thoughts, allowing a team to align around a set of actions that everyone has agreed to. While this relates a lot to our behaviors, it also helps to clarify what we mean when we are talking about what success is, what roles people have on the team, or even what the team’s values are. 

It is important that team members are aligned around these areas, or the resulting performance can go astray as people falsely assume that others agree with their assessment and behaviors.

What you and your team need to understand to accomplish this

  • What the team’s underlying values are (i.e., honesty, diversity, performance, caring, etc.).
  • What the appropriate ways to behave are (i.e., expectations on timelines, asking vs. telling, availability, respect, etc.).
  • How the team communicates – both the tone and the method (i.e., text vs. e-mail vs. phone, “telling it like it is” vs. being respectful, who needs to know, etc.).
  • What the goals of the team are and how success is measured (i.e., achieve X% improvement, make a difference in ______, everyone gets along, no drama, etc.). 
  • Who plays what roles and when – not just official titles (i.e. who keeps us on task, who ensures we relax and take time for ourselves, who brings in new ideas? Note, these are not exclusive.).
Infographic of people working on a team
You can take your charter to the next level by creating a visual like this example from the example from the “My Innovation Studio” project team

The Four Main Areas of a Team Charter

Core Values

Team values dictate what the team cares about. What is important to each member of the team when it comes to showing up at work and interacting with each other?

Group Norms

Group norms dictate how the team interacts and works with each other. What do we consider “standard” and “normal?” What group and individual behaviors work for us? Which ones need to be changed? How do we communicate, interact, and behave with each other?


Team roles define what each member brings to the team. They are about how we show up to work, not just what work activities do we do every day. What roles do each of us play? How can our team leverage these roles to become more successful in our work?

Metrics of Success

Metrics of success define how to quantify the team outcomes. What does success look like for us? What measures do we consider important for alerting us to “great” or “good” or “okay” or “poor” work and relationships?

Now Go Start YOUR Team Charter Today!

Much like how ancient travelers used the North Star to let them know if they were on the right path, team charters provide a beacon and act as a set of guardrails for behaviors or aspirations for how team members should behave.

Start understanding what your team values and enhance your team’s performance today. You can begin crafting your team’s right now by ordering the Leading Human™ playbook and companion workbook here. Leading Human™ has an entire section dedicated to helping you craft your charter and with specific exercises and tools to within the playbook to guide you on how to successfully see it through.

The package also walks you through how to create psychological safety on your team, how to implement human-centered leadership practices, and how to chart a successful path forward for your team.

This systematic approach was created for leaders to use during chronically stressful times in partnership with Behavioral Grooves using insights gathered from many experts including New York Times bestselling authors, prominent researchers in the fields of psychology, industrial and organizational development, and employee engagement; and senior level executives. 

To learn more about why these processes are so critical to today’s working world grab our free whitepaper here.

For multiple licenses and/or corporate/enterprise level pricing please reach out to us at

Sketched team charter example from the “My Innovation Studio” project team – MBA in Design Strategy, California College of the Arts, 2016.