What are Reverse Ground Rules?

Guest Author: Amanda Lea Kaiser

 

“Don’t misbehave, say the wrong thing, or be bad!!! Now, go be creative.” 🤪 This is the weird internal monologue I have nearly every time I read codes of conduct or participate in a ground rules-setting exercise. We tell people what they can’t do and hope they bring their best, most generous, and creative selves to the conversation.

Too heavy-handed and codes of conduct or ground rules may make a community quiet, but they are often ignored. Either way, neither is very engaging.

It’s an interesting challenge to flip non-engaging elements into engaging elements, so I’ve been playing with the idea of Reverse Ground Rules.

In the last Member Engagement Lab (missed it? Don’t worry, there’s another on March 21st), a participant asked, “What are Reverse Ground Rules?” Three more people piled on to say they wondered, too. So here it goes!

Reverse Ground Rules give people tips on how to behave. They get a sense of the desired behaviors, mindsets, and interaction styles that will create a positive culture for their member community. Reverse Ground Rules are more about what participants can do than what they can’t.

And there are no rules about how these rules need to look😉.

During the Virtual Networking Incubator, the participants, my partners at Matchbox, and I created the Golden Rule Haiku.

You don’t have to tell participants what the reverse ground rules are; you can ask them. Participants can share ideas that get them thinking about how to create a beneficial community culture for each other with prompts like, “What kind of community vibe creates feelings of safety so people can share?” or “What environment enables people to try new things?”

When there’s not much time, I might start the list and ask participants to complete it, writing ideas on a flip chart.

Are Reverse Ground Rules a replacement for regular ground rules? Sometimes. There might be occasions when the topic is difficult or super sensitive. Perhaps you suspect bad actors in the room. Or maybe you need a legal leg to stand on; these times, you might need the traditional ground rules or codes of conduct.

In other situations, like when you ask participants to be creative or generous with their ideas, co-creating Reverse Ground Rules might break the ice and get everyone started on the right foot.

About Our Guest Author

Amanda Lea Kaiser is a keynote speaker and author of Elevating Engagement: Uncommon Strategies for Creating a Thriving Member Community. Through her research, Amanda is at the forefront of exploring how member and attendee engagement is rapidly changing within professional communities.

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