Building A Team For Success: Setting The Tone

Paul Naybour

Setting the tone is an important part of building a team for success. So let’s look at when, how and why to do this to have the best possible outcome for your projects.

Building a team isn’t easy, especially when you have limited project management experience. However, building an effective project team is achievable by focusing on skills, personality and response to your individual PM style. Once you have a good team, you have a great place to start. But it is important to remember just that – it is just a start. You need to be building a team for success and there is more to that than just selecting the right people.

One important way to ensure your new team are going to be heading in the direction of success is to set the tone with them as early as you possibly can. Setting the tone might seem simple, but it is actually a step many people embark upon too ineffectively, or not at all. This is a detrimental move that can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, including a breakdown in communication, the team not understanding the full vision of the project, the team lacking in respect for you as a manager, and more.

The tone should be set by you in person at the very first team meeting. However, you should also be sowing the seeds of your vision before then. Set up a project platform where milestones, goals and information are shared, and invite all team members to it. Send out information letting the team know about the first meeting and what will be discussed. This is useful as they will have a chance to prepare ideas, thoughts and questions. It is also useful as it shows you are already well in control of the project and the situation, so they already get a feel of your management style before they even speak to you in person.

When you do have your first formal meeting with them, be ready to take complete control and be extremely well prepared – you should have all of the answers to questions you can anticipate or be prepared to find them. You need your team to feel confident in you from the outset. Do not be late and do not accept others being late either. This is the time when you should be clear that you are in charge, and explain to them what you expect from them.

Try not to go into too much detail and be too ‘bossy’ – you want to inspire them after all. You can always have individual meetings with each team member following this meeting, this is a great idea to get to know them on an individual level and go into detail about what you expect from them as part of this team.
It is so important you are clear in this early stage. Being clear is what sets the tone. Often a breakdown in communication is the biggest cause of project failure, so it is important you are transparent right from the beginning of the project.

It is important (if not the most important aspect of a project) that your description of the ‘bigger picture’ is truly clear. From the very beginning of the project your team must believe in why they are doing what they are doing, and feel passionate about achieving success. As a project manager, you need to be able to talk them through the project and why it matters to each of them.

Goals must also be clear at this stage. They should be achievable and there should be goals for you, for the whole team and for each team member. Don’t be afraid to ask team members either at the meeting or individually if they want to tweak their goals. If there is something unattainable, something they need support with, or something they want to add, discuss this and clearly document any changes. It is also important that the goals do not conflict with goals of other team members. The final goal of a successful project should be shared by all, and be the final destination for everyone.

Setting a tone is important for many different reasons. Predominantly, as a project manager, it is to set your position as just that – project manager. Your job role is so important, and you will be leading this team to success. You can only do so by being clear, being communicative and being assertive. This needs to be done right at the beginning to ensure everyone understands your project management style, and understands what is expected of them.

Setting the tone right from the outset is also important to instil a sense of enthusiasm, passion and pride in your team members and in yourself. Letting team members know why you chose them, listing all of their strengths, abilities, skills and weaknesses that you would like to help them improve, is a really positive approach. Setting early, easy goals for team members to achieve will only promote positivity and confidence. Team members are also much more likely to respond well to a strong, confident project manager who is clearly in charge, enthusiastic, passionate, kind and willing to listen.

Additional Tips
To ensure you set the tone in the best way possible do:

●    Be positive
●    Listen to any questions
●    Encourage team building
●    Encourage communication
●    Set clear goals
●    Be personable
●    Apply your emotional intelligence
●    Set a strong foundation for success


●    Be bossy
●    Be overly confident and cocky
●    Talk down to your team
●    Try and wing it – if you don’t know something, write down the enquiry and look to find out as soon as possible, and be open about that
●    Go into the first team meeting without preparing

Remember, setting the tone for the rest of the project will be daunting, but it will also be really exciting. You have a fantastic team, all the skills needed for success, all the resources for success, and the project management training to get you and your team where they need to be. Embrace this time, it is the most optimistic time of the entire project.

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