Collaborating in the Digital Realm and IRT

Collaboration is a soft skill that in the COVID era rapidly acquired big implications. Even more than in the recent past, the ability to achieve efficient and effective collaboration within work teams, and in fact within organizations, is recognized as a fundamental leadership skill. Collaboration today plays a defining role in driving successful business outcomes.

Because it is now common practice for team members to work from either home or office and to be scattered across city, state, national or even international borders, in addition to occupying various time zones, it is critical to ensure that all players are on the same page. Freelance consultants would do well to diplomatically encourage a collaborative environment on every project in which they participate. A project that yields less than stellar results will weigh most heavily on the Freelancers’, and not the employees’, reputation. The opportunity to receive referrals and repeat business sometimes rests on making one or politically savvy suggestions.

Collaboration is born of trust, respect, communication and, ultimately, sharing information and responsibility. These attributes and actions promote both camaraderie and good decision-making. Teamwork begins when team members understand their project mission; understand how their project supports organizational objectives; have the data, tools and authority to carry out their work; and know whom to consult when questions arise. Think about how you can advance those ideals on your next project.

Digital workflow systems such as Asana, Slack, Trello, or Microsoft Teams are excellent tools that provide access to all relevant documents, support continuity, allow all team members to view and contribute information as work progresses and document progress. Study the project specs. Visit the websites of the digital workflow systems mentioned here or recall your experience with other systems. In the kick-off team meeting, raise your hand (virtually or In Real Time) and suggest a workflow system that will both expedite the work and promote transparency and collaboration.

Virtual check-in meetings may find some team members in a makeshift home office, on a park bench surrounded by greenery, or in their familiar workplace office but nevertheless, if trust and respect have been properly seeded and nurtured, open communication that also allows for differing perspectives, will support candid assessments of project progress, about what may not be working and enable the wisdom of the team to devise solutions that all will support.

Follow-up is where the team pulls together to implement whatever useful suggestions for improvement that surfaces at check-in progress meetings. It is often said that half of life is about showing up. Surely, the other half is follow-up.

Follow-up moves the team and the outcome they produce from good to great. Top teams never assume that someone else took care of an important detail— they make sure it’s been done, the right way. Dot the i’s, cross the t’s and deliver excellence.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Kim Clark. Nursery school students collaborate on their project (the morning walk).

The Confidence Game

More than a dozen years ago, after being laid off from a Fortune 100 company and learning that hiring managers were not interested in our skills, or they were not interested in those skills when attached to someone over age 40, a work colleague and I each launched ourselves into the self-employed life, specializing in different aspects of business strategy and marketing services.

We each suffered through lean financial times, but eventually I broke through to regularly generate a comfortable, although by no means extravagant, level of business earnings.  Unfortunately,  my friend and colleague has continued to struggle, if not starve.

I was recently inspired to estimate the value that the projects I’m hired to manage bring to my clients’ organizations (an important factor when calculating the project fee, BTW) and concluded that the impact of my work is worth a five-figure sum to the client.  My clients’ confidence in me extends to an unspoken but consistent (monetary) value.  I am trusted to manage the five-figure tier of responsibility for the small and medium size for-profit and not-for-profit organizations on my client roster.

I imagine the limitation is at least partly related to the fact that I work alone (although I have colleagues to enlist if a project exceeds my ability to fulfill the scope).  My projects are mostly ongoing and modestly paying contracts, interspersed with short-term, more lucrative, assignments.  When invited to meet with a prospective client, I usually get hired.

My friend, who also works as a Freelance consultant, is infrequently called to speak with prospective clients about her marketing services and when she is invited to discuss a project, she is seldom hired.  The projects that she aspires to manage can be confidently estimated to have a seven-figure value to her prospects’ organizations.

My theory is that my friend is so seldom hired because even her most solid prospects remain uncomfortable about the capability of a one-person shop to successfully get the job done and help them achieve very important, high price-tag goals.  Her prospective clients apparently do not trust her to successfully manage and impact that tier of responsibility and so she is not hired

At a cocktail party last weekend, I had the unexpected opportunity to meet a lady who does precisely what my friend would like to do.  But this lady does not work alone.  She is part of a three or four person team that offers clients a comprehensive package of services that my friend could never deliver.  I doubt that she could ever persuade those with the necessary expertise and experience to work with her because she lacks the professional stature that would give them the confidence to do so.  My friend and colleague is out of her league and refuses to acknowledge it.

Another acquaintance recently closed her business, rather than sell it (I wonder if she preferred not to disclose financial statements that would reveal to potential buyers that she’d been using her own money to float the organization for five years or more). About three years ago, she invited me to her office to discuss how the two of us might do some business.  We were together for about half the day and we were joined by her second-in-command. Her goal was very straightforward—-win back former clients and acquire new ones.

I suggested the creation of a monthly newsletter, a form of content marketing that has been shown to be an effective client outreach tool if properly chosen topics are featured.  I would be happy to produce the newsletter and take on as much of its production as was mutually agreeable.

That time, I was not hired.  No one was hired and there was no content marketing campaign.  It became obvious that this very elegant lady, who over 50+ years built a business with an enviable client list that was now quite diminished, did not warm up to the current marketing methods, including an e-newsletter.  She did not trust the process.

So what can we learn from these three tales?  First, we can acknowledge that trust and confidence play a foundational role in all relationships, business and personal.  Second, those who elect to go into business or self-employment are advised to offer products or services in which you have the deep knowledge and experience that gives prospective clients and potential referral sources the confidence to hire or recommend you.  Do that and you will succeed in business.

In closing, let’s heed the advice of entrepreneur and selling skills trainer Grant Cardone, author of Sell or Be Sold  (2012), who says that getting sales is often not about money (pricing), but about the buyer having confidence in three things:

  1. Confidence in the product or service
  2. Confidence in the salesperson
  3. Confidence in the company

 

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Image: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81), Pierre-Auguste Renoir