This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

A couple of tips ago, we were talking about the three most common pitfalls when a group of people is newly forming to get stuff done, and I promised to continue with specific ways to kick off a project or task on the right foot. The unbearably long wait has finally ended.

Here are four key ingredients to a successful kickoff:

  1. Put the agenda on the agenda. Make clear to your partner(s) that you don’t just do work; have a meta-discussion about how you will do the work. Then you can work together to define things like what the different types of meetings will look like, and how they will be led and supported.
  2. Get to know the team. Most initial meetings involve the standard ritual of sharing name, rank, and serial number. Always add a more personal dimension. This is especially important if the group will be in existence for a while, and/or will involve considerable amounts of participants’ work lives. Don’t be afraid to “go there,” and to take time to do it thoughtfully.

[Tweet “#Kickoff best practices: Do you routinely do all four? #getreal”]

  1. Envision a successful result. During the sales process, you very likely went through a process of envisioning project results. Do it again. Why? Because things have now started to get more real for each party. Talk candidly about to-be state of affairs after the project is complete—how the process or organization or people (or all of it) will look, feel, or behave differently as a result of your fine collaboration.
  2. Articulate the Rules of Engagement. Ask people to describe the informal ways things get done “around here”—how decisions are usually made, what happens when there are differences of opinion, and more. Give lots of room for people to articulate—for themselves as well as for others—the unwritten processes that govern how everyone will work together.

It’s not rocket science, that’s for sure. It’s just all too easy to dive in so fast that you miss these start-up essentials.

This tip is an excerpt from Chapter 20 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

Make It Real

This week, reflect (again) on the last two times you were involved in some kind of kickoff—for a project or a task—when new team members were coming together. How’d you do in terms of applying these best practices? What might you do differently next time?

Learn More


Brush up on the trust creation process (and other essential trust models), from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or check out two ways to get to know the team in a more personal way in Chapter 20 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).