Wanna know the number one team-destroying issue I’ve seen pop up again and again? MISCOMMUNICATION.
We all want reliable, talented team members who are both accountable and productive, but we can’t expect them to meet our high standards if we don’t set clear expectations and permissions. And follow up continually, communicating honestly if those expectations and permissions shift, even slightly!
When contractors aren’t sure about the rules, they’ll make up their own. That can work as a stop-gap, but will lead to disaster in the long term. Deadlines will slip, issues will persist, work will suffer.
Bad news all around.
Naturally, you’ll do some initial boundary-setting when you train in any new team members, but it’s important to have both tools and procedures available for ongoing updates. Worried that you haven’t set up your squad for open communication and ultimate success? I’ve got you covered!
Read on to find out how to get healthy team boundaries in place.
Set Clear Boundaries with Contractors by Creating a Policy Manual
I know this may sound like a deeply boring task, and honestly, it might be. But don’t skip it!
Creating and maintaining a company policy manual that includes information about deadlines, days off, communication preferences, and any other important issues is your first step toward outstanding communication. Make sure all team members have access to it, and require all new team members to read it as a part of the onboarding process.
Put a note in your calendar to review and revise every six months or so. Businesses change, and so do their needs!
Make Team Communication Easy
Just because we can email, text, instant message, and video-conference with each other doesn’t mean we always remember to do so. Especially if we have to deliver bad news to our boss… say, that a project went over budget, or an opportunity fell through.
Yes, your contractors should be honest and upfront, but you can make that easier for them by giving them ample opportunities and tools for active communication.
A few ideas to consider:
- Send a weekly check-in email to each team member on Sunday night or Monday morning, asking for updates.
- Use a tool like Slack to keep group communication active during the workday.
- Ask everyone to use project management software, which tracks progress and deadlines automatically.
- When it’s crunch time on a big project, encourage team members to use an instant message program to keep in touch throughout the day.
Create Healthy Boundaries by Addressing Issues Immediately
This one’s a killer.
Confrontation is never fun, but letting problems fester is a surefire way to erode trust … and potentially give contractors the impression that they can get away with shoddy work!
Employees, especially freelancers, always prefer to know where they stand.
If a project isn’t up to snuff or a team member is consistently late/grouchy/ineffective, speak up right away. Doing this clarifies ongoing expectations, and creates helpful boundaries.
Ask for Team Member Feedback on Expectations
Hint: If everyone on your team is constantly running late and scrambling to keep up with their workloads, you might be setting unreasonable goals for them!
And even if they’re hitting their deadlines, they might still feel stressed and strapped for time. So ask for their feedback. With new contractors, check in on a weekly or monthly basis. With older team members, quarterly should be fine.
But also let them know your door is always open, if they suddenly feel like expectations are unclear or just plain harsh. Encourage everyone to offer alternate solutions, and give them the courtesy of proper consideration.
Keep Boundaries in Place by Being Consistent
Say you hire someone and tell them you need a week’s notice for any days off. Then six months in, when she asks for a few days of vacation around a holiday and does so a full week ahead of time … but you get snippy and mention that she clearly had these plans in place long before letting you know about them.
What message does that send? How can your contractors know what’s expected of them if they’re aiming for a moving target?
Be consistent about rules, boundaries, and permissions. Anything less sends mixed signals to your team, and leaves them confused about your real rules.
Don’t let miscommunication ruin your team dynamics! Use these tips to make sure everyone supporting your business knows exactly what’s expected of them, at all times, no matter what.