Rules of Engagement: How to best work as a team?

What are they, and why should we talk about them?

Defining Rules of Engagement

You typically see the term “rules of engagement” used in military lingo, but what exactly is it? Rules of engagement are a set of rules, orders, or procedures that are put in place so that everyone knows what is expected, what to do in certain circumstances, and how to solve any problems that arise. In IE, we see rules of engagement as ways to work best with each other. 

Just like we do not all like the same flavor of ice cream (mint chocolate chip!) we won’t all work the same way in the same circumstances, nor will we all like the same sets of rules or procedures. Understanding that we cannot have twenty different rules for the same situation, we can still have a set of rules that govern how we like to work with others and what helps us do our best at work.

How to Get Started

It’s important to remember that not everyone is comfortable talking about this in an open forum. Gauge your team’s interest in engaging with this topic before you conduct a full meeting about it. 

Once you know the forum, start big and then get small. A great way to begin any conversation about working well with each other is to talk about what’s going well. Starting out positively helps people look at the process in an optimistic and hopeful way. Talk about big topics and once you’ve picked out the ones that matter most to your team, then you can spend more time on each one.

Tools You Can Use

Consider having a “values” conversation. Understanding what motivates you and your teammates helps understand your teammates’ motivations. Check out this resource for a few different ways to understand and uncover values:

Another tool you can use is a set of questions that everyone answers to their comfort level. At IE, we created our own to help us work better together. Check it out here:


There’s no right or wrong way to work together as long as you make space for everyone’s voice and opinion. The goal with rules of engagement is to work better independently and collectively. A team that works well together creates a better work environment and better results!

For more resources on your personal development, check out our resources page here: 

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