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Meetings & Communication

A complete guide to creating a meaningful team charter (& a customizable template!)

Leapsome Team
A complete guide to creating a meaningful team charter (& a customizable template!)
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In the current world of work, effective collaboration is more crucial than ever. Not only has workplace collaboration increased by as much as 50% over the past 20 years, but top-performing US workers spend as much as half their professional time working with their colleagues.*

However, even top employees aren’t born knowing how to collaborate effectively. As increasingly complex combinations of colleagues and departments are thrown together in workplace settings and expected to perform at their best, proactive companies need to leverage strategies that increase alignment, foster cohesion, and improve communication within their organizations.

Team charters are underrated tools that enable people to work together more effectively, which is why we’ve dedicated this article to explaining what they are and what elements they should contain. Best of all, we’ve got a free, easy-to-customize team charter template that you can download and use for your own team.

*Zippia, 2023

🗺️ Feel like team charters are uncharted territory?

Simply download our free team charter template, personalize it according to your team’s needs, and start any group initiative on the right foot.

👉
Download the template

What is a team charter?

A team charter is a concise document that outlines a team’s composition, objectives, overarching reason for being, and ways of working. Basically, it’s a roadmap for a group of people who are collaborating, and it answers questions like:

  • Who are we, and what are our strengths, weaknesses, roles, and responsibilities?
  • What are we working toward?
  • How do we prefer to operate in our day-to-day work?
  • What resources do we have access to, and how will we use them?
  • How do we define success, and how will we measure it?

Senior managers or project stakeholders normally develop team charters before formally assembling a team. That enables these centralized documents to fulfill one of their main purposes more effectively — drive team alignment and act as a source of truth that team members can refer back to when they integrate new members, face fresh challenges, or keep the big picture in mind.

Of course, many different teams may employ team charters, meaning their format can vary. Some of the most common use cases include:

  • Project teams
  • Department teams
  • Cross-functional teams
  • Leadership teams

In an episode of the Engineering Enablement podcast, Director of Engineering, Developer Infrastructure Mark Côté provided insight into what his team charter contains: 

“Our charter is just to try to align everybody on what we do and make sure everybody feels connected and engaged to a larger mission and that we understand what we’re doing as a development acceleration group,” he explains. “We split it mainly into two areas — our opportunities for impact and our guiding principles.”

How are team charters beneficial?

A photo of three colleagues working together in an informal office environment.
Team charters improve teamwork, result in better-documented processes, and illuminate how teams fit into a larger whole

The benefits that team charters can bring greatly depend on how well they are thought out and, most importantly, how well they’re then integrated into team members’ day-to-day work. However, some advantages include:

  • Increased cohesion and accountability — Team misalignment can greatly harm employee experience and business outcomes. Tellingly, 47% of respondents to Lucid’s 2022 workplace alignment survey reported that some of their projects failed due to misalignment issues. 46% also felt frustrated or annoyed as a result of misalignment. Team charters fight against these kinds of issues as they ensure all collaborators share the same standards and expectations from the outset.
  • Clearer, well-documented processes — When teams don’t record their preferred ways of working as soon as they start collaborating, people will inevitably start doing things their own way. This can lead to conflicting processes, confusion, and even wasted resources down the line. Indeed, a 2022 report by the Academy of Management studied 1,891 teams of students completing an eight-week international business project. They found that those who created team charters had significantly better process performance metrics.
  • Improved understanding of the bigger picture — For teams to feel motivated and engaged, they need to understand how their work fits into the grand scheme. That may mean knowing how team goals feed into broader company objectives, demonstrating the group’s purpose to leadership, or being conscious of the stakes of a project’s success. As Shopify’s Mark Côté explained in the Engineering Enablement podcast, one of the driving forces behind his team charter was “...to try and get everybody on the same page and not feel siloed into individual teams, but understand how the teams connect and fit together into some whole.”

What your team charter should include (plus a customizable template!)

Now, let’s go into more detail on all the sections that make up our team charter template so that you know exactly what information to include when you start customizing yours.

Remember — the format of team charters varies based on the context, needs, preferences, and objectives of different professional groups, so feel free to add and remove elements as necessary.

🧠 Lay the groundwork for an aligned team from the get-go

Our free, customizable team charter template means you can save time, foster cohesion, and make an impact from the beginning of your group collaboration. 

👉
Download the template

1. Team member roles & responsibilities

A screenshot of an interface from Leapsome’s Competency Framework feature that shows different skills and how junior, senior, and manager-level employees might embody them.
Leapsome’s Competency Framework feature illuminates how skills might look at different seniority levels

First, it’s essential to list all team members in a team charter and provide a brief overview of their key roles and responsibilities. This ensures that everyone knows what they should be working on and who to contact when specific problems arise. It also provides orientation when individuals join or leave the team.

Defining people’s roles and responsibilities in the team charter is vital because it can inform future review discussions, evaluations, and development opportunities. You can even use a tool like Leapsome’s Competency Frameworks to automatically sync roles and responsibilities with our Instant Feedback, Reviews, and Goals modules to foster a more holistic, continuous evaluation process.

2. Mission & goals

A screenshot of an interface from Leapsome’s Goals module.
Leapsome’s Goals module works with a variety of different goals frameworks and supports strategic alignment

This section may look different depending on the type of team. For example, a cross-functional project-based team would have a very different charter to a permanent departmental team. Either way, it’s essential to define exactly what you’re working toward. Why has this group of people been assembled in the first place? What results are expected, and who is expecting them? How will you know when your team is “done” with your work?

The mission and goals section of your team charter might include one or both of the following:

  • The overarching mission — Basically, what big-picture purpose or objective is your team working toward? For example, a human resources team’s mission might be “To foster a diverse, inclusive, high-performing workplace where individuals feel cared for and well-equipped to reach their full potential.”
  • A series of specific goals — The more specific goals your team wants to achieve. Depending on your organization’s preferred goal framework, you might outline the team’s objectives and key results (OKRs) here or use the SMART goal approach.
💡 New to objectives and key results?

Our comprehensive article on OKR examples has 25 different possibilities for departments like human resources, marketing, sales, and engineering to help get you inspired while working on your own.

3. Communication & collaboration guidelines

If team members can’t communicate with each other effectively, they won’t be able to collaborate well. When a group begins working together, establishing communication norms helps to ensure everyone understands each other, works under the same expectations, and avoids frustrations and misjudgments.

This section may vary depending on whether you’re defining communication guidelines for a specific project or an entire department’s procedures. However, here are a few points that are often included:

  • Meeting guidelines — Delineate how often meetings will happen, who will lead them, where they’ll take place, and who will be in charge of the agenda.
  • Working hours — Define whether there are any specific times when team members need to be available (as well as how they can make their preferred working hours known, where applicable).
  • Internal vs. external communication — Explain whether there are any specific rules that employees should follow when interacting with their colleagues vs. clients or other external stakeholders.
  • Asynchronous vs. synchronous methods — Describe what situations call for an in-person meeting or video conference and what matters should be discussed or addressed via email or chat app like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
  • Feedback guidelines — Lay out expectations in terms of how team members exchange feedback, whether they’re sharing mutual recognition with a tool like Instant Feedback or bringing up areas for improvement.
Pro tip: 💡 With Leapsome’s Meetings module, users can display the communication and collaboration guidelines they established in their team charter at the top of all meetings, rather than having to update a meeting agenda constantly.

4. General expectations & best practices

A photo of two professionals working together at a desk.
Clearly establishing the ground rules and core values that should guide daily work helps to align the team

All teams will have some kind of general guidelines, core values, or best practices that regulate how they work together and interact with each other. Here are a few examples you may consider including in your charter:

  • Basic ground rules — For example, always be punctual, keep an open mind, listen before responding, treat everyone respectfully, and take deadlines seriously.
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs) — These are documents that organizations put together so employees have step-by-step instructions to carry out specific tasks, for instance, ‘How to offboard a team member’ or ‘How to publish a blog post on our website.’
  • Core values — Fundamental principles that the team should embody in all the work they do. Some of Leapsome’s core values are listen and learn, challenge the status quo, seek impact, and be kind and humble.
  • Conflict resolution procedures — When people get together, conflict is bound to happen at some point. You may wish to outline how your team will solve conflicts calmly, respectfully, and thoroughly to preserve a psychologically safe work environment.
  • Decision-making steps — If your team uses a certain framework for decision-making, such as SWOT analysis, cost-benefit analysis, decision trees, or even good old-fashioned pros and cons lists, explain that here.

5. Budget, training opportunities & other resources

A screenshot of the learning path interface from Leapsome’s Learning module.
A team charter is a great place to document specialized L&D resources, like the learning paths that make up our Learning module.

If your team has a defined budget or other specific resources, such as certain privileged data or research, dedicated software or technology, or training and development opportunities, provide relevant details here and give team members the information they’ll need to access them.

🧠 Creating and automating learning content has never been easier

Our Learning module empowers team leaders to consolidate development resources in an engaging, accessible, and easy-to-monitor format.

👉
Learn more

Many teams attach or link other documents to their team charters so team members won’t have to search for essential information. For instance, a company’s people department might assemble a cross-functional team to boost engagement levels. Perhaps the leadership team approved their project budget. It would be a good idea for them to attach the budget document to the team charter so that everyone involved could refer back to their initial plan and how much they initially proposed spending on different strategies and initiatives.

6. Evaluations & success indicators

There’s no point in any collaboration if you don’t clearly define what success looks like for your team from the very beginning. Earlier in the team charter creation process, you established your overarching mission and goals for the group working together — now it’s time to detail how you’ll track those goals and know when your team has performed well (or when you need to improve).

There’s no one way to define success as a team, but these are some solid methods that can give a good idea of how people are performing:

  • Formal evaluations and performance reviews — If your team carries out formal assessments at specific times, you may wish to evaluate team members on their responsibilities and personal goals. Remember, this can also encompass 360 reviews, peer reviews, and self-assessments, depending on your preference. 
  • Internal and external feedback — Many people-centered teams take a more holistic look at performance within the framework of continuous performance management, so frequent, informal feedback from coworkers, managers, clients, and other stakeholders becomes just as significant a success indicator as more formal assessments.
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) — These are metrics that teams establish and track over time in order to measure performance. Some project team examples may include client or stakeholder satisfaction, milestone achievement, or return on investment.

It’s ideal if you use a team enablement platform like Leapsome with holistic modules that all sync together. That way, your goals will automatically feed into continuous feedback, performance evaluations, and meetings without having to juggle multiple tools. 

How to implement a team charter with Leapsome

A screenshot of the interface of Leapsome’s team dashboard.
Leapsome’s team dashboard provides users with an overview of modules such as Reviews, Learning, Goals, and Instant Feedback in one intuitive place

Meaningful, productive collaboration is only becoming more important in the current world of work, a trend that’s unlikely to subside anytime soon. In a changeable economy and competitive labor market, it’s critical for ambitious, dynamic organizations to use all the tools at their disposal to generate impressive results, enable team members to collaborate to the best of their ability, and generally make work experiences more enjoyable for employees.

Leapsome is a holistic people enablement software that not only supports specific initiatives like team charters but also gives people ops professionals and leaders the tools they need to nurture thriving, resilient teams.

With our Competency Framework feature and Learning module, employees can clearly understand where they’re at with their skills, visualize tangible career targets, and access development materials to help them get there. Then, the Goals module enables team members to track their progress and connect what they’re working on within the organization’s strategic vision. Last, our Instant Feedback, Meetings, and Reviews modules work together to create a rich feedback loop based on purposeful conversations, a collaborative mindset, and continuous performance management.

With Leapsome, you don’t have to choose between results or people because when you enable teams effectively, the two go hand-in-hand.

🧩 Leapsome holds your team charter puzzle together

Our seven dynamic modules interconnect and mean you can integrate your team charter into your daily work without a second thought.

👉
Book a demo

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Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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