Motivate Staff With an Annual IT Kickoff Meeting

It’s the beginning of a new year and you want to “make it happen”. A new year to a certain extent can create a sense of a “new beginning”. Shed the problems of the past and look forward to the successes of the future. As a manager, you should take advantage of this sense of “new year” in a way that will motivate your staff to accomplish more.

Hold an Annual Kickoff Meeting for your staff.

An important lesson I learned at IBM many years ago was how much people appreciate knowing what’s going on in their company and how much they appreciate being “part of the team”.

Not just the IT team but the “company team”.

Monthly staff meetings were looked forward to and they built teamwork. Maybe I was in a special office, maybe it was just me, possibly it was my imagination, , , but I don’t really think so.

Want to know why?

It’s simple, I replicated this process for over 20 years in my IT management and CIO career and saw the same results with many different IT organizations. The bottom line is that your technical staff really does appreciate you taking time to discuss what’s going on, recognize accomplishments, develop a few skills or educate them on a topic of importance.

AT IBM, I was the “skit man”. For those who don’t know, a “skit” is a short play acted out to illustrate a certain theme or point, , , in my case, it usually included as much humor as possible. Whenever we needed to do something that allowed us to laugh a little, you better believe I was usually a part of the “skit”.

I’m a very serious person and committed to my work, but I can laugh at myself (and others) with the best of them. Not only is it fun, it builds camaraderie.

At IBM, I dressed up and acted parts that included a Wang salesman (remember the company Wang?), a Howdy Doody puppet, a gorilla, a Marine Drill Sargeant, , , even a 2-foot tall IBM “small person”.

One of the major events of the year was always the January Kickoff meeting. I have kicked off virtually every year of my management responsibility with a staff “kickoff” meeting. Depending upon the size of the group, this can become quite a production and require a good bit of work, even cost you some money, , , but it certainly doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

The benefits are significant. Here is why I start the year off with an IT Kickoff Meeting.

  • Rally the troops
  • Motivate employees
  • Build teamwork
  • Share the past year’s accomplishments
  • Present the new year’s objectives
  • Identify where we need to improve
  • Educate
  • Have some fun with my employees

At a Kickoff, it’s time for a little “rah-rah”, , , maybe a lot of “rah rah”. Get excited, pump yourself and your team up, and be positive and upbeat.

Part of a manager’s responsibility is to lead the team and to motivate the people in it. It’s hard to motivate if you aren’t a positive force yourself. I’m not suggesting you be fake about it, but at the beginning of a new year it’s actually quite easy to be optimistic about the future if you allow yourself to.

What ends up motivating employees is the additional insight into the business from their manager and your ability to be “charged up” in your delivery and optimism about the year ahead. Having specific objectives and details of what was good (and bad) in the past year is also very beneficial.

Technology employees in general are very conscientious and want to do a good job. They are looking for leaders who will bring them together and point out the direction we need to take as a team.

Here is a sample agenda I use for my IT Kickoff Meetings:

  • Welcome
  • Past year performance
    • Company
    • Key Organizations
    • IT Organization
  • Key accomplishments of the IT Organization
  • New Year Objectives
    • Company
    • Key Organizations
    • IT Organization
  • Guest Speaker (Executive Officer, Motivational Speaker, or someone who helps motivate)
  • Skit (some lighthearted fun)
  • Keys to a successful year
  • Recognition
  • Q&A time
  • Wrap-up

It’s important to start and end the meeting in a positive manner. I like to start my meetings with some upbeat music tied in with a slide show of photos showing all my employees at work and play during the past year.

People love to see themselves on the “big screen”.

Even if you don’t have any photos, you can get this part done in a single day or two with a digital camera. Take a walk around the company and start snapping pictures. You will be amazed at how much your employees will like this. When you are taking photos, coach your employees to be a bit creative in their poses, , , otherwise you may end up with a lot of solemn and boring photos. Including some of your clients in work related photos is also a very good thing.

I normally use PowerPoint’s slide show feature to do present the photos at the beginning of the Kickoff Meeting and pick a few really upbeat songs to go with the photos, , , something like the theme to Rocky works very well.

For the meeting, prepare PowerPoint presentations that are professional, organized, and share knowledge about the business. Mix it up with different topics and multiple speakers.

Give everyone a t-shirt or something unique to remember the Kickoff Meeting by. Use your imagination here. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

I suggest you provide morning and afternoon breaks and a nice lunch. This is usually where the expense will be.

Invite a speaker who can have a positive impact on your IT staff. This might be the CEO, a senior manager of the company, your CIO, or even an outside client who can do a credible job of speaking to your group. Senior executives are good, especially when they can articulate the importance IT has in the company meeting its objectives last year and in the future.

Consider conducting the meeting offsite. Getting everyone “away from the office” for a day is healthy. Just remember that even though you are having an offsite meeting, you must still support the technology of your company so communicate your whereabouts and create the ability for appropriate support people to be reached as necessary.

Positive things happen when your staff sees you going out of your way to make them aware of what’s going on in the company. When they see that you care about them, about whether or not they are successful or not, and that you are taking steps to help them succeed, watch out. People will walk through fire for you when you need it the most, but only if you have earned their respect.

A Kickoff alone won’t earn their respect. That’s pretty obvious, , , but doing things like this on a regular basis that keeps them informed, identifies where they are succeeding and where they need to improve is truly powerful. Have some fun with your Kickoff meeting and carry it through to monthly staff meetings. It has a positive impact on employee morale and is a great tool to focus on areas that need improving and to coach the team for higher performance.

Most managers don’t conduct these meetings. It’s either because they don’t know how, don’t realize the value of them, or are too lazy to make it happen, , , or maybe they think it takes people away from work. Remember, you have to create a support process that will support the business even though you are in an all day meeting. The client is working and IT must still be able to support your client.

What I can tell you is that you are missing a big opportunity to spend quality time with your employees if you don’t hold an annual Kickoff Meeting with something that “gets their attention” and shows you appreciate their efforts. It is great motivation material and excellent coaching time to improve the capabilities of your team.

Register to attend my webinar and learn more.Webinar1_Kickoff
Motivate Staff With an Annual IT Kickoff
will give you step by step instruction and insight into delivering a successful Kickoff Meeting that will be fun and memorable.

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