So you’ve built an incredible team staffed with stellar contractors, talented designers, and amazing admins. You’ve put in the work to find and partner with the best possible people, and at first they were churning out superb work week after week.
The copy doesn’t really sparkle, the graphics aren’t inspired, and deadlines are starting to slip. You haven’t changed your management style, so what on earth could be going wrong?
It’s possible that you’re just not offering them the feedback, support, and structure they need to feel engaged. Especially when you’ve got a team with remote members, it’s important to dedicate some of your managerial energy to motivation and inspiration.
Luckily, I’ve got seven simple tips that will make boosting team performance a breeze!
1. Build team member confidence with public praise
Honestly, ALL praise is welcome. (So long as it’s honest!) But giving a contractor a public shout-out for a job well-done is a surefire way to let them know you appreciate their hard work and talent. Whether it’s a group message via email or Slack, or a quick mention at a team meeting via Skype, be generous with your praise to keep contractors happy and productive.
2. Keep contractors apprised with regular performance reviews
Very few people intentionally or maliciously slack off. They’re more likely to downshift to slightly lazy work habits by default.
If your team members aren’t performing as competently as you’d like, you can’t expect them to figure that out on their own! Consider offering regular, constructive performance reviews so each contractor knows where she stands. (You can even do them quarterly so they feel more like check-ins and less like wrist-slaps.) Also think about creating a system of incremental pay raises. Even a tiny boost in hourly rate can make a team member feel more motivated.
3. Let your people work in their “zones of genius”
Want happy, productive team members? Don’t force them to tackle tasks they hate! Instead, encourage them to focus on tasks they can perform skillfully and enthusiastically. Fill their plates with work that they love and excel at so that they truly enjoy working with and for you.
Not sure what a particular contractor’s zone of genius is? Ask! Find out what she adores about her work, and what she dreads, then make sure she’s got a heaping helping of the former and a tiny smattering of the latter.
4. Encourage team member feedback
Your business is your baby, which means accepting constructive criticism can be rough. But if you want your contractors to feel truly invested in their work, you need to be willing to listen to their honest feedback and take their suggestions to heart.
Since they’re not as emotionally close to the endeavor, they often have objective perspectives to offer. Many are also working with other clients, and have insights to share from those experiences. Let your people know that they can question your choices, ask why you took the team in a certain direction, and give their input freely.
5. Show appreciation by remembering birthdays and holidays
It’s such a simple gesture, but it’s ALWAYS appreciated! Recognizing your contractors with a small gift or bonus on their birthdays and major holidays is an easy way to show you value them. Even a brand new or naturally private employee is likely to appreciate a gift card to Amazon or Starbucks. Let your team know you’re grateful for their support, and they’ll remain loyal and engaged.
6. Praise your contractors by sending more business their way
As a business owner, you know that word-of-mouth is gold, right? You may even have recruited your team members based on recommendations from your colleagues. Pay that forward by referring other clients to your contractors (assuming they have space in their schedules).
Nothing makes a freelancer feel recognized like an influx of new business!
7. Ask for input on new projects
Just as you should remain open to feedback, you should solicit team member input on any endeavors you’ve got in the cooker. Think about how you feel when new work is handed down from on-high and you realize you were never even consulted about it. Now think about how invested you feel when you help build a new project from the ground up. If you want your contractors to be fully engaged, invite them to weigh in on any developing ventures.
Shall we round things out with one quick don’t? If you want a productive, dedicated, devoted team, do NOT micromanage them! Trust your people to do their work and do it well, or they won’t be “your people” for long.
I hope these tips can be integrated into your team management plan right away, so you can help your contractors feel valued and appreciated!