Project Management: Setting The Tone For Success

Building a team is not an easy task for anyone, even project managers with plenty of experience. It is achievable of course, but even once you do get your dream team in place, you’ve still a lot to do to get them to success. One really important thing to do right at the beginning to point the team in the right direction is to set the tone. Letting your team know how things are going to be throughout the project. The result of the tone being neglected can result in all kinds of problems like communication breakdowns, a lack of morale, lower productivity, the team having a lack of drive and more. Setting the right tone can be easy for some, but it can so easily be done badly if it is approached with weak levels of effort.

We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us – Friedrich Nietzsche

When To Set The Tone

In-person, you’ll be setting the tone at your first meeting with your team. With communications, however, you can set the tone for your first email, call, or message to your team members. Using apps and technology like software for kanban you can set up all of the milestones and goals, and get all your team members onto the programme. A good thing to do is to send out a group message announcing when and where the first meeting will be, providing details of the topics of discussion. This should encourage the team to prepare their thoughts and ideas. It also shows them that you are well underway with being in control of the project, and they will gain an early insight into your management style.

At the first meeting, you should be prepared and ready to be in control. You cannot be late because that sends out the wrong message immediately. You should also tackle any lateness straight away. Along with this firm approach, you have to balance it with your management style and personality. You should be approachable, and friendly and avoid bossiness. Nice guys don’t finish last in project management, and you can read more about being a nice PM in this article by project manager David Smiley on Linkedin. First impressions are really important so appearing to be an unfriendly or unprofessional manager at the first meeting could cause damage that lasts and can have a negative effect on your project. Remember that this meeting is for setting the tone, and getting to know your team. You can establish better connections with them at follow up one to one meetings with them.

“Define what your brand stands for, its core values, and tone of voice, then communicate consistently in those terms” – Simon Mainwaring

How To Set The Tone

You must be crystal clear at this crucial beginning part of your project because clarity is what will help your messages deliver easily. The way you deliver this message should be effective and clear, setting the tone for communication throughout the project. 57% of projects fail due to a breakdown in communication, so your transparency is an incredible way to set the tone for the rest of the project, and to set an example.

The Bigger Picture

Clarifying the bigger picture and selling the dream of the project is so important for setting the tone. Right from the offset your team has to understand why they are doing what they are doing, and why. The delivery of the bigger picture should be enough to cause the team to feel passionate about the end goal. Like their work has a purpose bigger than them being a working cog in a machine. Work out exactly why each person should care about this project and sell that dream to them. Make them believe. Need tips on helping your team see the bigger picture? Check out this handy full-length article full of tips.


Each person’s goals and the bigger goals of the project should be clear from the very beginning. Be sure to discuss goals with each person and with the team as a whole so they feel like they have a voice from the very beginning. This helps you understand if they need support or training to achieve their goals, and it helps to gather if anything they want to achieve conflicts with the project or with other team members. It is all about clarification and setting a tone of passion, motivation, and achievement.

“If you don’t set the tone for the day, the devil will set it for you” – Joel Osteen

Get “Buy-In” For The Tools You Want To Use

Once you’ve established the bigger picture and laid out your goals, it’s time to get your team onside.

Remember, most people won’t want to switch from, say, your existing management software to Trello alternatives without some pretty good justifications. Your job, therefore, is to set out clearly why any new tools are better than what you’re using already and how they will help.

Don’t assume that team members will immediately see the benefits of switching over to new platforms. From their perspective, it will often seem like more pointless hassle. The trick is to set the tone early on, getting people to internalize the desire to use new tools so you don’t wind up with low morale.

Why Set The Tone?

Setting the right tone is setting yourself up for success. If you go into a project with a negative attitude, accepting bad behaviour from the team, barely bothering to communicate with anyone, how is the rest of the project going to be? It will be exactly the same, and it could well cause your project to crash and burn. It is up to you to set a tone of success. To set the tone you want throughout the entire project. Gift your team a sense of enthusiasm, a sense of passion, a real wind under their sails. As PM you are leading the team to success and you can do that by being clear, concise, communicative, and assertive.

“I’ve found that good dialogue tells you not only what people are saying or how they’re communicating but it tells you a great deal – by dialect and tone, content and circumstance – about the quality of the character” – E. O. Wilson

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