Tired of the usual annual, corporate kickoff format and outcomes? Consider the following steps to help create the best kickoff you’ve had yet for your team or organisation. How do I know? For the past decade, I’ve been engaged in not only about 50 keynotes each year that set the tone for kickoffs but have also been actively helping teams organise their event to maximise the outcomes. Read on:
1) Get Clarity on the Outcomes
If you are spending big money flying people in to your kickoff venue, you’ll need to get absolute clarity on desired outcomes. Poorly devised kickoffs are focused on tasks and checklists instead of how will the organisation improve as a result of the kickoff. Check if you have metrics of success of the meeting. Ask questions in these forms that focus on whether the attendees have understood what needs to be done, who will be doing it and how they agree to be accountable. Most kickoffs have meetings with speakers. Again, focus on the outcomes at the end of a presentation. How will the attendees’ unique situation improve by the absorption of the speaker’s content, or their emotional buy-in shift for the better? These are the real questions.
2) Energy flows where attention goes
If your intention is now clear; how do you get their attention, and thus extract maximal energy and focus for the event, be it a half day or two day session? First, consider selecting a venue that can help support this. If your team is in a largely urban one, consider picking a rural or rustic setting. Contrast and change heightens awareness, curiosity and shifts the energy balance – not to mention appeal to the jaded ones. Create fabulous content that could be a combination of delivered information, or co-created content. Look at presentation content that would be better as a handout and insist that your speakers speak in a way that makes what they share matter to the audience; and end with a strong call for action. Get speakers that can wake up the audience and maximise the value of their time together. So, spend if you need to get the right speaker for your kickoff.
A careful blend of content, facilitation, co-created outcomes and refreshing settings can add to maximal engagement of the participants.
3) New ways to meet & discuss
Some years ago, I met Anthony Willoughby who had spend most of his life as a global citizen and had pioneered a new way to discuss the strategy journey using what he called “Territory Mapping”. Inspired by how many illiterate Masai hunter-herders could manage their cattle in rough terrain, he developed an indoor set of meeting tools enabling groups to “map” their way forward. In some instances, the idea of drawing a way forward by the senior management team was vastly different to the employee experience where hand drawn illustrations of their team sailing to an island of goal achievement marked “Paradise Island”. This contrasted with the confusing picture drawn by employees which included droll descriptions of reality like “Bullshit Bridge” linking clients and organisations, a “fantasy applications” pathway and “consultant conveyor belt”.
Discovering disconnects and amplifying positivity can be done using other methodologies as well. For example, I’ve delivered a number of Open Space Technology (OST) sessions where a central theme established prior to the meeting is met with spontaneously created topics and meetings where people only attend those that interest them. Organised ‘chaos’ happens for a day, but the co-created outcomes are powerful as no one’s time or interest is wasted. Each topic or ‘action plan’ would have, by then, thrown up its own champions, supporters and an action pathway after the meeting.
4) Getting results
What happened after the kickoff is probably the most important key to the meetings. So, before the kickoff, ascertain the metrics you will use as to who will be doing what after the meeting; how this will be decided, and how you will measure success. Build in a series of possible ‘quick wins’ early in the year to give the team confidence is tackling the larger, hairy goals as the year progresses. Plan to announce and celebrate such wins ahead of time. This allows the team to pause, recover and press on with renewed energy.
5) Engagement from the top
Most points listed here won’t happen unless you get buy-in from the top people who are the ones distributing limited resources. Help them see the kickoff as just one part of a planned series of moves going into the New Year that will bring desired results. Far too many unsuccessful outcomes have been caused by cursory involvement by the bosses who often delegate this very junior people. Don’t. Get them involved in key messages and outcomes, and the cost thereof. They’ll thank you for it.
About the Author: David Lim is Asia’s Leadership Coach, and best known for leading the 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition. Since 1999, he has helped organizations build teams and grow leaders. Send him a note today at firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe to his leadership e-newsletter or inquire about his organisational solutions