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February 1, 2010 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Hacks for getting a team to work well if you are a contractor, underling, etc.

I’m a freelancer and sometimes I’m hired as a consultant for projects because of my technical background/subject area.

Here is my problem, though—it isn’t the content, but the people. The team has great people but they may be working 100000 hours or they may hate one person or a few team members. Or, there is disorganization. Extreme disorganization (next steps are not discussed – until it is due) or they may try to change the deadline.

I’ve become concerned because if these projects fail (don’t meet a deadline, or is not of high quality) people may blame me and it may eventually threaten future work.

So what tips would you suggest to keep a team organized and to work well together? It has to be subtle and not take much time (I bill by the hour). Note that I am the outsider (contractor/freelancer) so it can’t be “tell them they must do X” Are there subtle things you can do to keep someone on track? Best practices?

I’ve thought of sending a bulleted list to people (team, I will do X and Y, which you will receive on 2/1/2010). Please send me Z by 1/30/2010) or stating this info at the end of a phone call.

Are there other things that you can do to work well with others/leave a good impression?
posted by Wolfster to Work & Money (1 answer total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Check out any book, article, or blog you can on Virtual Teams for terrific advice from people who do it all day long, because those skills float specifically to what you're trying to accomplish.

Your bulleted list idea is terrific. A re-cap mail at the end of phone calls will work better than a verbal restatement, because you can easily differentiate agreements, action items, owners, and due dates.

Thank people quickly and enthusiastically when they get things to you appropriately (both in time frame and correctness) and they'll be more likely to repeat. If they're consistently delivering, send a note to their higher-up (kudos are often the only hard evidence a boss has of their employee's ability to function outside of their view & help them justify rewards) - you can even cc the person you're complimenting.

Since you've correctly perceived some might not have the same motivation to participate as you, find the common ground between the two of you on why they should care about something you're asking them to do and push that button (kindly). And in the case of those completely resistant, know who their boss is and politely inquire if there's anything you can do to clear any blocking issues causing X to be a bottleneck (after, of course, you've made the same offer to them).

So much of the rest of what you need is project management at the core, I'd recommend checking out "Project Management for Dummies" and reading up on the sections related to motivating others, if you've the time.

Sorry this isn't more detailed - specifics are easier when you know what the issues will be, of course. But feel free to msg me for any other input...I did virtual teams and hardcore coordination for projects for yeeeeeears.

posted by batmonkey at 2:15 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

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