These resources assist teams in getting off to a strong start.
Jump to topic
- Kick-off meetings are the first time a team meets (in-person or virtually) and are used to set the stage for future team interactions.
- Kick-off meetings can also be used to build consensus and communicate the purpose, goals and vision of the team.
- If done correctly, they allow teams to get off to a good start by establishing positive team interactions, clarifying shared goals and specifying team member roles.
- They help protect teams from potential dysfunctional conflict by building member relationships and clarifying roles.
- Hamburger, D. (1992). Project kick-off: getting the project off on the right foot. International Journal of Project Management, 10(2), 115–122. doi:10.1016/0263-7863(92)90064-g.
- Reijniers, J.A.M. (1994). Organization of public-private partnership projects. The timely prevention of pitfalls. International Journal of Project Management, 12(3), 137–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/0263-7863(94)90028-0.
- Start with team icebreakers to initiate the team-building process.
- Have team members introduce themselves and talk about their area(s) of expertise.
- Introduce the team leader or project manager.
- Define the objectives and scope of the project.
- What is the purpose of this project? Answer the question, “Why does it matter to the group?”
- What does a successful outcome look like? How is success measured for the overall team and for team members?
- Share the goals and vision statement of the project.
- Initial project plan.
- What needs to be done immediately to start the project and to build momentum?
- Clarify project requirements.
- What needs to be accomplished for the project to be completed?
- Does the project move in phases? If so, what are those phases? Do responsibilities shift in those phases?
- Clarify role requirements.
- What responsibilities will different team members have?
- Clarify this point sooner rather than later so members feel like the division of labor is fair and equitable.
- Present the project plan.
- Present a timeline that includes milestones for team members to track progress.
- Get team commitment.
- Have something that team members can read and individually sign.
- Formalize a working relationship (see team charters).
- Hamburger, D. (1992). Project kick-off: getting the project off on the right foot. International Journal of Project Management, 10(2), 115–122. doi:10.1016/0263-7863(92)90064-g.
- Atlassian Team Playbook: Project Kick-Off
- Team icebreakers are activities that help team members get to know and feel comfortable with each other.
- Ice breakers are useful for newly formed teams to begin the team building process as part of a kick-off team meeting
- Icebreakers can be used to build connection before content at the start of any team meeting.
- Icebreakers have been shown to build interpersonal trust.
- Icebreakers can build social cohesion faster, which is important for positive team functioning.
- Depping, A.E., Mandryk, R.L., Johanson, C., Bowey, J.T., and Thomson, S.C. (2016, Oct. 16-19). Trust me: social games are better than social icebreakers. Austin, TX, USA.
- Pearce, E., Launay, J., and Dunbar, R.I. (2015). The ice-breaker effect: singing mediates fast social bonding. Royal Society Open Science, 2(10), 150221.
When creating ice breakers, keep the following in mind:
- Have a clear objective.
- What do you want to accomplish with the exercise?
- Keep it simple.
- The exercise needs to be easy to explain, understand and do.
- Timing is key.
- Schedule the ice breaker when it will have a positive effect on your meeting.
- Work with the concept until you are confident in your ability to employ it.
- Reinforce meeting/project goals.
- Design or choose the icebreaker to make a point that relates to some aspect of the meeting/project.
- Consider using props.
- Sometimes objects inspire the most creative exercises.
Select an activity that is a good fit for your team.
- Prepare your team-building activity.
- Give a detailed explanation about how the activity will work.
- Ask team members if clarification is needed.
Explain the activity to the team.
- Check again for understanding if team members seem to be having trouble.
- Run the activity.
- If possible, be the first volunteer to demonstrate the icebreaker.
- If the larger team divides into small groups, try to visit all of them during the activity.
- Debrief the activity.
- Try to get all team members to give feedback, but don’t demand feedback.
Reinforce the learning.
- When possible, connect icebreakers to the team project.
- Miller, B. (2015). Quick team-building activities for busy managers: 50 exercises that get results in just 15 minutes. Amacom.
- Plan Your Meetings: How to Use Icebreakers Effectively
- A list of questions to ask
- Forty icebreaker questions for small groups
- A deck of 60 cards to build connections
- Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter by Will Wise and Chad Littlefield
Team Ground Rules
- Team ground rules are the parameters set and agreed upon by team members governing how meetings are conducted, how expectations and goals are communicated and how team members are expected to behave.
- Ground rules are commonly drafted during the initial stages of team development but can also be established by ongoing teams who want to improve team dynamics.
- Ground rules support an increase in team performance1 and have been shown to increase effectiveness in multi-cultural and global teams.
- Ground rules can help to address:
- Absence of trust
- Fear of conflict
- Lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results
- Stuart, A. (2014). Ground rules for a high performing team. Paper presented at PMI Global Congress 2014—North America, Phoenix, AZ. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
- Govindarajan, V., and Gupta, A.K. (2001). Building an effective global business team. MIT Sloan Management Review, 42(4), 63-71.
- Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A leadership fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Procedural – govern how team meetings are scheduled and run
- Behavioral – govern the behaviors of team members, including how team members should treat each other, how turns are taken, and how much participation is required
Attitude and Culture
- We treat each other with respect.
- We develop personal relationships to enhance trust and open communication.
- We value constructive feedback. We avoid being defensive and give feedback in a constructive manner.
- We seek to understand others’ points of view.
- We establish and maintain a supportive group climate, but also confront difficult issues when necessary.
- We thank team members for their efforts on behalf of the team.
- We recognize and celebrate individual and team accomplishments.
- We will hold a regular scheduled meeting on… (insert day and time).
- All team members are expected to attend team meetings.
- Members will be fully present during team meetings (e.g., not checking their phone or emails).
- The team leader can cancel or reschedule a team meeting if sufficient team members are unavailable or there is insufficient subject matter to warrant a meeting.
- The team leader will publish and distribute an agenda by email by… (insert day and time).
- Meetings start on time and end on time.
- An action item list with responsibilities will be maintained, reviewed in meetings and distributed with the meeting minutes.
- No responsibilities will be delegated unless the person assigned the responsibility accepts them.
- The responsibility for taking and distributing meeting minutes will rotate monthly among core team members.
- Meeting minutes will be distributed within 24 hours after the meeting.
- We emphasize full discussion and resolution of issues vs. sticking to a timetable. Alternately, meetings stay on topic. If discussion wanders, issues are put in the “parking lot” for another meeting.
Communication and Decision-Making
- One person talks at a time; there are no side discussions.
- Each person is given a chance to speak their mind while respecting the group’s time and the meeting timetables. We will be brief and focus on facts, not opinions.
- We emphasize open and honest communication; there are no hidden agendas. Conflict is openly and directly addressed.
- We de-personalize discussion of issues so there are no attacks on people.
- We listen, are non-judgmental and keep an open mind on issues until it is time to decide.
- We value balanced participation of all team members. No one dominates; everyone participates.
- Decisions are reached by consensus.
Planning and Management
- We mutually commit to our team’s objectives as stated in the team charter or negotiate until we can make a mutual commitment.
- We accept the responsibility and accountability along with the authority given to us.
- We maintain the teamwork plan and schedule each month.
- If a team member believes they are being asked to do a task outside the scope of the team’s charter, they will bring this to the attention of the team leader for resolution.
- When we pose an issue or a problem, we also try to present a solution.
- Team commitments should not be made lightly, but we will keep those that we do make.
- As team members, we pitch in to help where necessary (e.g., to help solve problems, catch up on behind schedule work).
Maintaining Ground Rules
- Everyone is responsible for enforcing the ground rules.
- We conduct process checks when one member believes we are deviating from our ground rules.
- Ground rules will be reviewed at a specific date and revised as needed.
- Ground rules are often part of a team charter.
- Ground rules can be set during kick-off meetings.
- Ground rules should have a desired outcome.
- Ask: Why does this rule exist?
- Ask: Does this rule make our team better or worse?
- Ground rules should be agreed upon by all team members.
- Ground rules should be revisited frequently so they are not forgotten.
- A review of the ground rules can be incorporated at the beginning of meetings when members go over team roles.
- Update and revise ground rules when necessary.
- Revisit when new team members join or tenured team members leave.
Team Goal-Setting and Goal Evaluation
- Team goal-setting clarifies team objectives, purposes and what constitutes meaningful collective outcomes for the group. Team goal-setting helps to narrow the gap between expectations and reality regarding what should be achieved.
- Team goal evaluation helps teams track progress on goals and determine whether and when team objectives have been accomplished.
- Goals set standards, focus activity, motivate members and are the benchmark to measure progress.
- Specific, difficult goals are associated with higher team performance compared to vague “do your best” goals. Moderately difficult and easy goals are also associated with higher team performance compared to nonspecific goals, but effects were smaller.
- When team members feel confident that they can achieve a goal, research shows that they perform better than teams with less confidence.
- When teams are given feedback, they are more likely to produce more effort toward a set goal, leading to increased performance.
- Clear, challenging, and consequential team goals provide team members with a sense of identity and purpose as well as help team members come together around common objectives.
- Locke, E.A., and Latham, G.P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Kleingeld, A., Mierlo, H., and Arends, L. (2011). The effect of goal setting on group performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(6), 1289-1304.
- Gully, S.M., Incalcaterra, K.A., Joshi, A., and Beaubien, J.M. (2002). A meta-analysis of team-efficacy, potency, and performance: interdependence and level of analysis as moderators of observed relationships. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(5), 819.
- DeShon, R.P., Kozlowski, S.W.J., Schmidt, A.M., Milner, K.R., and Wiechmann, D. (2004). A multiple-goal, multilevel model of feedback effects on the regulation of individual and team performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(6), 1035-1056.
- Wageman, R., Hackman, J.R., & Lehman, E. (2005). Team Diagnostic Survey: Development of an instrument. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(4), 373-398.
What are SMART goals?
- Each goal should be SMART: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound)
- SMART goals address the who, what, how, why and when questions needed to define the steps, timeline, resources and progress of goal-setting.
SMART Goal-Setting Template
What is the goal?
- Start by identifying why the team exists, the core outcomes for which the team is responsible and ongoing team priorities and assignments.
- Set team-level goals collectively, incorporating input from members to increase buy-in.
- Communicate why particular goals are being set to team members.
- Why is this goal important to achieve?
- What outcomes will result from this goal being accomplished?
- Ensure that goals are SMART
- Ensure that team goals are aligned with the broader organizational vision and individual member goals.
- What specific tasks will accomplish the team goals?
- How should tasks be sequenced so that goals can be achieved?
- When should tasks be accomplished?
- Who will do each task? Who needs to be involved?
- How will you know when goals have been achieved?
- How and when will you track and evaluate goal progress and completion?
- How will you recognize and celebrate when a goal is reached?
- Write down team goals and refer back to them frequently to focus team meetings and hold members accountable for deliverables.
- Track progress on goals
- Accomplishing goals by set timelines can increase team motivation.
- Evaluate whether goals were accomplished by the set timeline
- Was the goal attained? If yes, how and why? If not, how and why?
- Celebrate goal accomplishment as a team.
- Review goals periodically and adapt them accordingly.
- Identify the barriers making it difficult to accomplish each goal and how those barriers can be overcome.
- Adjust goals that were unrealistic, too difficult or too easy.
- Discuss how team goal setting and evaluation can be improved and implement modifications.
A team charter is a written document developed and agreed upon by team members that helps to jump-start a team by establishing ground rules for team interaction, clarifying team direction and increasing team effectiveness.
- Team charters help prevent potential problems by making expectations explicit, clarifying member roles and outlining what successful outcomes should look like.
- Team charters have been found to increase satisfaction and performance.
- Team charters have been found to increase team members’ commitment to the organization.
- Shuffler, M.L., Diazgranados, D., Maynard, M.T., and Salas, E. (2018). Developing, sustaining, and maximizing team effectiveness: An integrative, dynamic perspective of team development interventions. Academy of Management Annals, 12(2), 688–724. https://doi.org/10.5465/annals.2016.0045
- Sels, L., Janssens, M., and Van Den Brande, I. (2004). Assessing the nature of psychological contracts: A validation of six dimensions. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 25(4), 461-488.
Note that not all categories have to be used; the team should select the ones that are most relevant based on the team type and task.
- Team purpose (This is your mission statement)
- Why do you exist as a team?
- What is the problem being addressed?
- What is a clear and concise statement of the ideal state your team desires to achieve?
- What does team success look like?
- Team goals (These are means to your mission)
- What team goals do you need to accomplish to attain your mission?
- Member goals (Helps to align individuals to the overall team goals)
- What does each member expect to achieve by being a part of this team?
- How will each member contribute to the team mission?
- Develop a team roster that includes each team member’s name, phone number, email address and an assessment of their team strengths and improvement goals
- Define and give roles to team members that make sense and are equitable
- What policies, procedures and values do you subscribe to that cannot be violated?
- What are the limitations on the teams’ performance (e.g., time and resources)?
- What decisions can you make on our own versus needing permission from others?
- Who are the stakeholders affected by your team’s activities?
- How will you make decisions? The leader decides? Most vocal wins? Voting? Consensus (100% agree)?
- In the event of a tie, how will tie-breakers be used?
Operating Guidelines: Team Structure and Processes
- Who will lead? What is expected of your leader? Will you rotate leadership?
- How will you perform the work that needs to be done on the various projects?
- How will you communicate with each other?
- How will you facilitate member growth and development?
- How will you encourage positive/creative conflict and discourage dysfunctional conflict?
- Will you acknowledge when there is disagreement and describe how it is affecting the team? Will each party be permitted to state his or her point of view?
- How will you get commitment from members to resolve disagreements?
- When will meetings take place and how long will they last?
- Will an agenda be circulated beforehand?
- What should you do if there is a time conflict and you are unable to attend?
- Are you responsible to find out what happened if you miss a meeting?
- Will meetings take place face-to-face vs. virtually?
- What consequences for missing or being late to a meeting?
- What are valid excuses for missing or being late to a meeting?
Performance Norms and Consequences (Performance Agreement)
What norms (behavioral rules) do you need to facilitate goal attainment and member satisfaction? What are your standards of performance?
- How will you evaluate and reward overall team and member performance?
- How will member contribution to the team process be evaluated?
- How should feedback be given?
- How will the team reward itself for a job well done?
- How should poor performance be handled?
- How will dysfunctional behaviors, e.g., dominating, withdrawing, wasting time, free riding, etc. be dealt with?
- If resolution is not possible, who will be contacted to help arbitrate?
- What is the due process for terminating a member from the team?
- What expectations do you have for team project contributions?
- What is expected for delivery and quality of assigned work?
- What are your criteria for evaluating project contributions?
- What are the consequences for work that is late or is of poor quality?
- How will the team reward individual members for outstanding contributions?
- Aaron, J.R., McDowell, W.C., and Herdman, A.O. (2014). The Effects of a Team Charter on Student Behaviors. Journal of Education for Business, 90-97.
- Team charters: Getting your team off to a great start
- Norton, William I, Jr., and Hale, Dena. (2012). Team Charters and Systematic Search: A Prescription for Corporate Entrepreneurship. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship. 17(1), 19-36.
- A charter is ideally written when a new team is formed.
- To help establish member roles, start by asking members to identify their strengths, weaknesses, preferred work styles, availability and contact information.
- A charter is developed through mutual sharing and consensus.
- All team members should agree on the document, sign the team charter and be given a copy to reference.
- Make the charter visible and accessible to all team members.
- A charter should be reviewed periodically and revised as needed.
- Mathieu, J.E., and Rapp, T.L. (2009). Laying the foundation for successful team performance trajectories: The roles of team charters and performance strategies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(1), 90-103.
- Team charter template from MURAL