Before-we-start agreements

It can be so easy to jump in to a task, a job, or project. 

However, this can create issues. Have you ever been far along in a project and realize you wish you could go back to the beginning and set up an agreement that would allow you to work better? Maybe you’re wishing you would have been paid ahead of time, boundaries on your time, or more realistic deliverables. 

Whether you are a salaried employee, freelance contractor, or volunteer committee member, if we’re not careful, we can fall into situations where expectations are misaligned, balls are dropped, and people get frustrated . . . including you.

Here’s a potential solution... set up an agreement

Something you can try is setting up a “before we start” agreement. 

Step 1 — Pause your personal work on the project. Before your jump head-first into your project, remember to pause and clarify and agree first. If you’re already working on the project, don’t worry, it’s not too late. Pause now before you do anything else. This is better than waiting until the end!

Step 2 — Create your “front end” agreement. You can also call this your Front-loaded Agreement, Before-We-Start Agreement, Working Expectations Agreement, or Memo-of-Understanding (MOU). It’s important you create this in writing and not just out loud. Having it digital and easily recall-able helps, too. It doesn’t have to be more than 1 typed page with plenty of margins and white space. Here are some potential sections to outline:

  • A short description of the work to be provided
  • Boundaries of time and energy
  • Expectation on delivery date
  • Variables that could change the delivery date or other conditions
  • What this “doesn’t include” section (helpful to keep the scope narrow)

Step 3 — Share the agreement digitally. Share a copy of your document with your boss or team digitally and make sure everyone has enough time to process what’s been written. It’s important they have a copy on their end so they can refer back to it down the road.

Step 4 — Make the agreement and move forward. If you need to make adjustments, do so, then re-send it to everyone. Now that you have the clarity on the expectations and deliverables, you and everyone else is now accountable. You’ve set up the boundaries and your mind will actually be able to relax and focus on the outcome. 

Decide to focus

The Focused State” is something you may be looking to reach. You may have reached it once or twice before but find that it’s hard to replicate and reproduce on command.

You may blame your boss, spouse, or lack of time. You’ll blame anything and anyone. I’ve been there. 

Choosing to focus takes effort. 

Focus takes discipline and perspective to make good decisions on what you need to focus on and why it is appropriate for right now. 

But what we often miss with focus is that it’s a decision. You and I must DECIDE to focus — to quiet the voice that says we need to be working on something else. 

Focus is a decision

When you make the decision to focus, you direct your attention away from the trivial and toward a topic. You block out distractions and clarify the win. You decide what will consume your attention and how far you need to get before you’re willing to let up. 

Choose to focus

You have a choice today. You can decide to focus. Or you can let someone else do it for you. 

The Green Stamp

In your organization, business, or life, who has the green stamp?

The green stamp is the special “mark of approval” required to move forward with something important.

The green ink isn’t so important. It’s the stamp itself — and who has it.

Usually, we skip the step to figure out WHO has the green stamp and WHAT criteria is being used before its given. So instead of doing the hard work to figure out the WHO and WHAT, we walk around making decisions we thought we were allowed to make . . . only to figure out we really didn’t have the green stamp.

Some bosses like to keep the green stamp locked up and out of sight because it gives themselves a feeling of authority and control. Great leaders give the green stamp away. They let others get things done based on criteria that makes sense for the project.

Your job — no matter where you are in your organization — is 1) to figure out who has the green stamp, 2) define the criteria, and 3) figure out how you can give the green stamp away.

If our personal preferences drive everything we do, massive growth can’t happen.