As a business owner, there are a lot of tasks or projects that need to get done to grow your business that don't require a full-time employee. Especially when it comes to things like graphic design, technology help, and maybe even some sales and marketing projects. So for many, it makes a lot of sense to outsource those tasks to outside contractors. But hiring outside contractors comes with a few unique challenges.
When you have a full-time employee, there is a certain level of responsiveness that you have grown accustomed to. You expect to be able to reach them during business hours, they should answer your emails or phone calls within a certain time period, etc. But should you expect the same level of responsiveness of your graphic designer who works for you 10 hours a month? They no doubt have other clients and projects, and it's not reasonable to expect them to drop everything for your projects when they come in.
Responsiveness is something that when taken too far kills productivity. It kills spirit. It kills creativity, and it eradicates opportunity. So I want to challenge you to be really careful about this in your company. For both contract and full-time workers, I want you to show your staff through your modeled behavior and, over time, through the culture you create that at your company you prize value created more than responsiveness, or especially more than hyper-responsiveness.
Now, what do I mean by that? It's really common for us to use how responsive somebody is to assuage our fear of "Are they actually working?" and I get it. I can probably count on one hand the number of people who I really felt were taking advantage of the system, and they were hyper-responsive to emails but did little else of value.
Give Them Space to Create Value
If I email Sally and get a response back in two minutes, I feel more comfortable because I know Sally is working, but at what cost? If Sally gets back to you within two minutes, what that means is that she's likely having certain low-level vigilance of monitoring her inbox.
Think about what a drain to her best attention that would be. If she's in operations, I want a portion of her best attention in doing things like systems refinement and producing high-value work for our clients. If she's in sales, I want a portion of her best energy to be uninterrupted doing the prospecting work she needs to do and having those closing sales conversations. If she's in accounting, I want some of her best time to be working on the key reporting that we need -- to have things on receivables, or on our P&L part, right. If she's in marketing, I want some of her best time to be spent evaluating different campaigns that we've got going on, creating wonderful sales copy, actually getting leads generated at a right price point cost per lead. I don't want her best attention to be spent monitoring her inbox.
For the next 30 days, I want you to set up an experiment with your staff. Get them together say, "Look, we know that this is an issue and that we're so busy responding to one another that we're not having the focus time to create the most value we can for the company. So, what I would propose is for the next 30 days is let's step back and create some ground rules about how responsive people should be and how we communicate with one another, how frequently we communicate with one another. Do we cc or bcc under what circumstances? How do we use our project management tool to update this versus a flurry of emails?"
All of you will have some tweaks and refinements along the way toward creating more value, reducing stress, reducing junk work on one another in a way that makes everyone's life better. Good luck to you as you apply this simple idea to helping your team produce more with less.