Much like working in an office with colleagues, teamlancing isn’t always easy. Whenever you are working with, and thus depending on, other professionals to complete a project, there are bound to be bouts of miscommunication and frustration.
Though it’s to be expected, it’s essential to address any and all issues to avoid putting your teamlance operation at risk. Particularly nowv, when face-to-face communication is primarily conducted via videoconferencing platforms like Zoom or GoogleMeet, being transparent, direct and honest will pave the way for a healthy dynamic.
5 potential teamlance issues and how to address them
As career expert and chief engagement officer for EHE Health, Joy Altimare explains, teamlancers must rely on strong leadership from everyone and open dialogue from start to finish. Otherwise, it’s easy to miss deadlines, perform poorly, and lose your budding business before it blooms.
Here, we provide effective, helpful and useful conflict-resolution advice for every situation you may encounter:
1. A team member misses a deadline.
Yikes: It’s 9 a.m. on a Tuesday, and you log in to your email and work-flow app, only to discover the deliverable due last night from a teamlance member is missing. The client is expecting round one by the end of the day — and now you’re frantic.
Your instinct may be to express anger, raise your voice, and place fire under the delinquent teamlancer, but it’s smarter to maintain professionalism.
As Altimare says, while he or she should be held accountable, try to be understanding, particularly if it’s his or her first offense:
“Start by asking him or her about their ETA. This provides an opportunity for explanation: it could be that they are overwhelmed and need assistance. This is an opportunity to be a team player and maybe assist in helping the entire team finish the project. Demonstrating compassion can help him or her understand that his contribution is important, and the entire team is dependent on his or her part.”
Once you have a better grasp on the current situation, you can go into action mode: does someone else need to step up and pitch in? Or, can you split the work to meet the deadline? Once this storm has passed, set up a meeting to determine how to avoid a future situation.
As Joan Frank, the founder of B. Frank Communications, explains, it’s vital to be on the same page with skill sets, personality, communication, and more. If a teamlance member isn’t able to remain true to their promise, they are encouraged to reach out ASAP so a plan B can be created and executed:
“As a team, we use deadlines very strategically. We need to review work and make tweaks in enough time that so can deliver promised goods to the client as promised. If someone misses a deadline once, I have a stern conversation with them. If they miss a timeline twice, you are off the job, and I won’t work with them again.”
2. A team member turns in poor-quality work.
As you are prepping for your latest project, you realize one of the teamlance members turned in work that’s way below their capabilities.
Before jumping to conclusions — which is so easy to do! — schedule a factual, emotion-free conversation and ask these questions:
- Did you run out of time to complete this task?
- Did you understand the assignment — or was something not clear?
- Did you not have the support needed to complete the work?
Based on the answers, you can start to deduce your action plan. If they were confused about an aspect of the project, Frank says there may have been a breakdown in communication or unclear expectations. “If that is the case, ask that the team member to revise the assignment,” she continues.
If the second draft still isn’t quite what you expected or needed, Altimare says you may want to consider pivoting their role or replacing them with someone who is more expert-level and doesn’t need as much hand-holding.
3. A team member isn’t responsive or active.
Successful teamlances stay in constant communication, either via email, regular meetings and/or workstream platforms and apps. By being within reach of one another, you stay connected to the common goal and join forces if a problem arises. So, if one member of your teamlance takes days to respond to a message? Or doesn’t have anything beneficial to say when you’re on a video call? It’s worthwhile to send them a nudge and inquire about what’s happening at home.
As Frank says, there may be a personal distraction taking away from their work, causing them to slack. Many professionals feel uneasy expressing the need for a break, particularly in a freelance setting, where there isn’t always an easy replacement for their work. If they feel supported by the rest of the team, they will feel more at ease speaking up when they are off their A-game.
According to Frank, consider approaching the conversation like this:
“I totally understand that life happens, and sometimes you may have a conflict that prevents you from responding to an email or participating in a meeting. If this is the case, the rule is you must let me know in advance. And then, we will figure something out.”
4. A team member has a negative, bad attitude.
Though many of the other confrontations may have a valid, warranted explanation, it’s hard to excuse a teamlance member who always comes to the table with a chip on his or her shoulder.
In this situation, there are a few reasons this person may be reacting this way:
- They don’t feel valued on the team.
- They are going through a personal dilemma that’s affecting their performance.
- They took on the job because they needed cash flow, not because they wanted it.
Frank says to have an honest discussion, give them a chance to change or address the conflict, and then decide how to move forward:
“Positive energy is how we roll. We always try to make every client opportunity fun, creative and exciting. Negativity is a buzz kill and is just unwelcome in my workplace. If a team member can’t change their attitude, they are just not the right fit.”
5. A team member throws another person under the bus.
A teamlance is meant to celebrate and take advantage of the expertise of various freelance professionals. This means everyone is aspiring toward the same benchmark, supporting one another throughout the project, and offering insight and guidance as needed.
So if you’re on a client call and a teamlance member embarrasses another teammate? That’s not the definition of a team — and should be addressed immediately following the meeting, according to Altimare. “Remind him or her that it’s the collective that helps drive greater success and positive results,” she adds.
If the team lead suspects two teamlance members have tension brewing, he or she should proactively diffuse the emotions. “Sometimes there are jealousy issues, performance insecurities or problems between two people that I am not aware of. If I find that to be the case, I prefer to have a direct conversation with those involved to address the issues,” she explains.
Bottom line? Don’t be afraid to speak up or to challenge teamlance members when they miss the mark or fall short of expectations. The only way to build a teamlance business is to remain honest and always be looking for ways to grow, personally and professionally.