Applying ‘The Four Agreements’ to Your Teams

I just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz for the third time. It’s really a book you can read once every year or even once every few months. The Four Agreements are based on ancient Toltec wisdom and are as follows:

1. Be impeccable with your word

2. Don’t take anything personally

3. Don’t make assumptions

4. Always do your best

I’ve always thought about The Four Agreements in the context of my personal life and relationships, but during this read through, I was thinking about how much of an impact they could have in the workplace. If an entire team read and agreed to practice The Four Agreements with one another, I expect their entire experience of being on a team would transform for the better.


How to Apply The Four Agreements to Your Teams

1. Be impeccable with your word

This agreement is about having integrity and honoring your word. Say only what you mean and do not use your word against yourself or others. In the workplace this could translate to:

  • Talk positively about your team members. Do not gossip and complain.
  • Follow through on what you agreed to do by when you agreed to do it.
  • Start and end meetings on time.
  • Uphold the norms and expectations agreed upon by the team.
  • Only say yes to opportunities when you have the capacity to take on more work. (As opposed to saying yes to everything, not doing quality work or potentially missing deadlines as a result)

2. Don’t take anything personally

Don Miguel Ruiz says of this agreement, “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality.”

I am constantly working to honor this agreement– it is a hard one! If you are able to separate yourself from what others say and do, you will save yourself a lot of emotional stress. This will enable you to be a more present and supportive team member. If everyone on your team practices not taking things personally, imagine how your culture and work could transform!

3. Don’t make assumptions

We make assumptions all day long. Think about how many decisions you make in a given day that are based on at least one assumption. Instead, by asking your teammates thoughtful questions, you can avoid a lot of misunderstandings, stress, drama and wasted time. Try asking some of these questions the next time you find yourself jumping to conclusions:

  • Can you tell me more about your idea?
  • What is your intended goal in making that change?
  • Can you share more about your thinking behind that decision? I want to make sure I fully understand.

4. Always do your best

It is important to remember that adopting The Four Agreements takes practice. We are so used to taking things personally, gossiping and making assumptions– our brains need practice in order to change our behavior. Give yourself some grace and be patient. Don’t judge yourself if you start complaining to a team member. Acknowledge it and recommit to your new agreements. Just always do your best!


Challenge your team!

The Four Agreements are simple, but can be challenging to apply consistently. As a team, try picking one of the four agreements and commit to holding each other accountable to it for one week. See how it feels. Does it impact the morale of the team? Does it impact productivity? At the end of the week, spend 10-15 minutes discussing the experience as a team. If you’re feeling ambitious, try adopting all four agreements at once!

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