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June 20, 2019

Impeccable Agreements: Weapon or Tool? Your Choice.

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Like all things in life, agreements can be made from above or below the line. When teams get committed to making and keeping clear agreements, it’s common for people to begin policing themselves and one another to do agreements “right.” They go below the line, and the process becomes a weapon used to control themselves and one another rather than a tool that creates more time, connection, and energy.  

Learn below how to create impeccable agreements from above the line, and how to watch out for the slippery slope towards weaponizing agreements.  

The Basics

When we bring conscious leadership into a company one of the practices that gets immediate and strong interest is impeccable agreements. Very quickly teams can relate to the cost of working within organizations with sloppy agreements.

Just think of how much drama is created in your life by a lack of clear agreements around when meetings begin and end, let alone the drama caused by people accepting meeting invites and not showing up. When people don’t keep their agreements with one another around deliverables, there are time and energy costs in tracking people down, blaming, and making excuses.

Leaders and teams understand that sloppy agreements are a major cause of team dysfunction. We teach teams that impeccable agreements include the following:

  1. Make clear agreements (who will do what by when) that you have a whole body yes to.
  2. Record your agreements (use a tool like Asana).
  3. Keep 90% of your agreements. Most individuals and teams keep less than 50%.
  4. Renegotiate your agreements with the affected parties as soon as you know that you might not keep the agreement.
  5. If you break an agreement, clean it up and restore any broken trust.

Living this way as an individual is a game changer. Living this way as a team wins championships, contributes to a climate of trust, and supports business goals. So little energy gets wasted; in fact, available energy increases and can be invested in creativity and innovation. Trust ruptures get repaired and trust is built. People become highly reliable and experience each other as reliable. I can count on you and you can count on me.

Weapon to Control: Agreements from Below the Line

Often when teams start to practice making and keeping agreements, they do so from below the line. There are several ways that agreements are approached from below the line. A common one is to use agreements as a way to control other people.

For example, I don’t like it that you’re chronically late for meetings. After learning about impeccable agreements I want you to make an agreement that you’ll be on time for meetings. I become the agreement cop who polices you and others to insure compliance with agreements. And when you don’t keep an agreement I blame you for not keeping your agreement and not really being willing to practice conscious leadership.

Agreements become part of my control plan. People use agreements to try to control their teammates, intimate partners, and children. They weaponize agreements.

To determine if you’re using agreements as part of your control plan, simply ask yourself the following questions before you ask someone to make an agreement with you:

  • Am I trying to change the other person? Is there something they’re doing or not doing that I want them to start doing or stop doing? Anytime we’re wanting to change another person we are subtly—or not so subtly—working our control plan. Whenever I’m trying to change another person (control them), I’m below the line. Pause to take this in. This is a big realization when we really get it. It’s often deeply unsettling when we face what control freaks we are.

    Parents use their newfound language around agreements to try to control their children. It sounds like this, “Hey sweetie, I’d like to make an agreement with you about cleaning your room. I’d like us to agree that you’ll straighten up your room every night before you go to bed. OK? Great. Now we’ve solved the drama around your messy room.”

  • When I ask someone to make an agreement with me am I really wanting a bi-lateral agreement? A bi-lateral agreement is very different from a command, edict, rule, or policy. The key to a bi-lateral agreement is that everyone making the agreement really checks to see if they have a whole body yes to making the agreement. If they don’t have a yes they don’t make the agreement. Many organizations are so used to doing the “corporate nod” that when a manager starts using agreement language people just nod rather than check to see if they have a real yes. They enter into the agreement but not from above the line. This is an I.O.U. for drama.

When people make agreements they don’t have a whole body yes to one of the following usually happens:

  • They don’t keep the agreement. They blow it off, sometimes passive aggressively and sometimes with outward rebellion.
  • They keep the agreement, but since they really don’t have a yes, it takes lots of energy to carry it out, and it is often not done with excellence. It’s just done to get it done.
  • When they don’t do it, or do it sloppily, they blame the other person and develop resentment for them making me make an agreement.

What we discover if we ask and answer these questions honestly is that we really don’t want to make conscious agreements, meaning bi-lateral agreements with real buy-in. We just want people to do what we want them to do. That’s OK. In fact, that’s human. The first key to conscious leadership is self awareness and this is a big dose of self awareness. To be able to see that I just want others to do what I want them to do, that I want to control other people, that I’m below the line and that I want to use agreement language to accomplish my desired outcome is one of the first steps of being a conscious leader.

Resources: Agreements from Above the Line

Now that you know what to look out for to spot using agreements to control, use these resources to learn how to create agreements from above the line.

Step 1: Watch this 3 minute video

Step 2: Download our Whole Body Yes Handout

Understanding and being able to access a whole body yes is key to being able to make, keep, and renegotiate agreements. Use this handout to learn about and practice whole body yes on your own, with your family and friends, and with your team.

Step 3: Download our Impeccable Agreements Handout

This handout walks you through the step by step process of making and renegotiating agreements, as well as cleaning up broken agreements. Use this as a guide for all agreements you make in your life: at work, at home, and everywhere in between. Use it with your team to ensure that you're making impeccable agreements from above the line.

More: Read the Chapter on Commitment 6 / Integrity in our Book

15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership Book Amazon Link

I commit to the masterful practice of integrity, including acknowledging all authentic feelings, expressing the unarguable truth, keeping my agreements, and taking 100% responsibility.

The most popular & highly rated book on conscious leadership available.

Practice Tool: Agreements Poster

Hang this poster as a playful reminder of the key components of impeccable agreements.

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