A project kickoff meeting is a lot like tuning a music band before an important gig: set the wrong pitch and even Chopsticks might turn into a cacophony. The fact is, how you get started matters. In the case of a kickoff meeting, a couple of careless phrases can discourage and mislead your team. To help you avoid a sloppy project start caused by poor word choices, we dug in, asked around, and gathered a list of the top anti-favorites of all time. Check out why you need to put these phrases on your blacklist:
1. “We don’t have a defined deadline yet, but we need to finish this iteration ASAP!”
Why it’s no good: Our recent survey has showed that 54.6% of employees find deadlines inspiring. So even if you don’t have a precise deadline for the whole project yet, make sure you give an ETA for its milestones.
Try this instead: “This project has an approximate time frame of X weeks. This phase needs to be completed by (date). What can we do to finish it faster?”
2. “HOW you do it is not relevant. I just need it done”
Why it’s no good: Sometimes a firm approach can energize your team, but uncompromising statements like the one above can only discourage them. We definitely don’t point you to micromanagement instead, but speaking about some basic how-to’s might be handy.
Try this instead: “Dave, you’ll be responsible for this part. Follow these guidelines... Please finish it by…”
3. “I want you to give this project 110%.”
Why it’s no good: According to team members’ complaints all over the web, they heard this phrase so many times that it has actually lost any motivational ring. Moreover, some employees even find it scary: “I know I will give my full effort. But do they want me to work even harder, longer hours to prove myself?”
Try this instead: “Let’s combine our best efforts and do great work — like I know we can!”
4. “We need to start actioning this item.”
Why it’s no good: This confusing jargon can leave your team wondering what exactly it was all about. Was this some sophisticated way to say “start working on a task?”
Try this instead: “This task is urgent. First thing we need to do is…, then we can proceed to…”
5. “We need to think outside the box as we work on this project.”
Why it’s no good: That’s our all-time least favorite phase. Employees find it annoying and extremely overused, and apparently thinking inside the box can be useful, too.
Try this instead: “Let’s approach this problem from a different angle," or, "Let’s discuss alternative options.”
6. “Let’s begin this project by grabbing the low hanging fruit first.”
Why it’s no good: It’s another overused expression, and some managers admit they even find it embarrassing. Spare your team’s imagination. Keep it simple.
Try this instead: “Let’s cover the simple tasks/areas first and then move on to the more complicated ones.”
7. “Tim, aside from the development part, please keep graphic design on your radar.”
Why it’s no good: Do you mean “coordinate”, “observe”, or “check on the progress”? Metaphors are great, but there’s no guarantee that you and your colleague will understand it in the same way.
Try this instead: “Tim, please coordinate with the design department on this task," or, "Check on the progress with… and report to…”
8. “This project will take the industry to the next level/ will be revolutionary/ groundbreaking/ etc.”
Why it’s no good: We are sure your project is amazing, but your internal kickoff meeting is not the place for buzz. Cheering words won’t harm, but it’s better to keep them constructive and clear.
Try this instead: “Our project stands out because… We have the following goals to achieve…”
9. “Let’s take this part of discussion offline.”
Why it’s no good: If your meeting is face-to face, this phrase doesn’t seem to make much sense. And from what we’ve learned around the web, that’s why it’s so irritating. How much more “offline” can you be?
Try this instead: “Let’s discuss this matter privately/separately/at the next meeting.”
10. “Don’t worry about the problems. We’re here to discuss solutions.”
Why it’s no good: Any project could face bumps along the road, so neglecting the possible risks will discourage your team and make them fear difficulties. After all, forewarned is forearmed.
Try this instead: “We might face the problems like… To prevent them or be ready for them, we need…”
What phrases do you avoid during project kickoffs?
A project kickoff meeting helps your team understand what the new project is about, grasp their specific roles and responsibilities, and gets them ready for the challenges they might face.
To ensure that your team didn't miss anything important, you need to keep your vocabulary simple, clear, and to the point. After all, you want your team to leave the conference room ready to move mountains, not just feeling relieved that it’s all over, don’t you?
What are other phrases you’d hate to hear at a kickoff meeting? Or maybe you’re guilty of using some of the listed ones yourself? ;-)