Whether you’re starting a new job, a new project, you were assigned to a new team or have a new manager, the Kickoff Meeting is one of the most impactful ways you can set yourself up for success.
When we do this the right way, the Kickoff Meeting sets the tone for any new venture. It’s your chance to make an outstanding first impression. It’s the moment to connect and build rapport with peers, managers and high-level leaders.
And it’s one of the most fundamental ways you can set yourself apart from the pack by once again focusing on building confidence, trust and respect among your team members.
A quick search on the web will result in thousands of articles, ideas and checklists for formal kickoff meetings for Project Managers. But what if you’re not a Project Manager? Where and how do you use the Kickoff Meeting, and what are the steps to success?
That’s what we’re going to talk about today. In this blog, we’ll go over the 7 things you can do to set the tone and intention of your involvement in any new endeavor. If you follow these steps, trust, respect and confidence will follow.
- Do Your Homework
Whether you’re starting a new job, a new project or any new adventure, the first thing you should do is to find out as much as you can about the company, it’s leaders, the people involved in the project and of course, the project details. Review any statement of work or job requirement. Research the company and industry. Review the technological requirements. Look at company financials if they are publicly available. Do all this and more – the goal is to find out as much information as possible to set yourself up for success by not only meeting but exceeding everyone’s expectations.
- Schedule the Kickoff Meeting
Although this is an obvious next step, it is equally important as step number 1. Of course you want to meet with project leaders and stakeholders. Getting something on the calendar is simple and quick, and it speaks volumes: it shows initiative, investment, and dedication to starting things off on the right foot.
Typically, the Kickoff Meeting involves a small number of people. If this is a new job, a new role or you have a new leader, then the kickoff meeting is generally going to be a 1 on 1-style meeting. Just you and the other important person involved. If the Kickoff Meeting is for a new project that involves a few other people, make sure you include ALL key stakeholders. If you’re not sure who to invite, ask your supervisor. Remember Module 6? Be inclusive not exclusive? You want to be sure everyone who should be there gets invited. Send the calendar invite ahead of the project or job start date, and treat this time with the respect and preparation you’d give any other meeting.
- Use Good Meeting Etiquette
Earlier we learned about meeting etiquette and professional communication skills. This is the time to use them. Remember you only get one chance to make a good first impression. When the meeting takes place, follow the basic rules we discussed in Module 6:
- come prepared
- have a solid agenda and follow it
- make eye contact when speaking AND listening
- implement good listening skills
- ask clarifying questions
- take notes
- start on time and end on time, and
- gather feedback from participants
All this will allow you to build rapport and confidence.
- Start with the Basics
You’d be surprised how many projects or assignments kick off without the basic information not only in place but also understood by everyone. You can imagine the time that gets wasted when we don’t know the basics. The rule of thumb here is don’t assume anything and don’t make the mistake of not asking the basic questions.
How do you do this? Start the Kickoff Meeting by covering logistical information:
- Who do I report to?
- Are there other key players involved?
- Who is the project manager or leader?
- Where does the work take place?
- What time does work start and stop?
- What is the dress code?
- Are there any security procedures?
- What else do I need to know to be successful?
- Review Requirements
Once you cover the basics in the Kickoff meeting, it’s important to understand the project plan or job requirements.
If there is a statement of work, make sure you get a copy of it. Review it, make notes, ask questions and get clarification.
If this is a new job or new assignment, make sure you get the job description. Understand the responsibilities, requirements and expectations your manager or the organization’s leaders have of you.
In both cases, understanding leaders’ and stakeholders’ expectations is incredibly important. Make sure you understand and can deliver on key milestones, expectations and all other associated deliverables. Get clear on how success is measured – both as it pertains to the project as well as how your success will be measured as well. Ask clarifying questions until you are certain you understand every aspect of the project and your role in it.
Use the parking lot to capture any ideas or issues that may not be pertinent to this meeting, to everyone participating in this meeting or your leaders may not have answers to. Remember – keep everyone involved but also keep things going so you can end on time.
- Address Issues
Along the way – during the Kickoff Meeting and when you begin work – you may uncover issues or concerns that about the project or assignment. NOW is the time to bring them up. Rule of thumb here is DON’T WAIT.
Addressing issues and concerns up front allow you to anticipate and solve problems before they come up. It not only ensures that everyone is starting off aligned and on the right foot. When you’re prepared and ask questions when they come up, the escalations we commonly see in IT project never even happen.
- The Follow Up
You’ve conducted your Kickoff Meeting. You’ve reviewed the project, your role in it and the overall goals that will equal success. You’ve clarified the expectations and addressed any issues. The last and most important thing is to document the meeting and follow up with that information.
You can do this very easily by sending a simple email to everyone involved. Bullet points are very effective here, and make what could be a long email, easier to read. Simply
- Review the basic logistical information you captured
- Outline your understanding of the project goals and the expectations for you and other important players
- Clarify the project deliverables and responsibilities
- And finally, attach any notes you took during the meeting for attendees, and those who couldn’t be there, to review
Well, it is! It’s a wonder more IT professionals don’t follow this path to hosting a successful Kickoff Meeting! But by performing these 7 simple steps, you are setting the tone for the meeting, creating a positive rapport among those involved, and enhancing the trust and respect team members and leaders have in you. You are practically guaranteed success in this project and the bigger, better, more important ones that will surely follow.