“So, you have to get this project done today.”
“I’m not going to ask you again. The client is breathing down my neck. Just do it.”
Crickets chirp (meaning, still no response).
“I’ll try to get to it today, but I’m pretty busy with other work. Why don’t you ask someone else on the team?”
Even though the person you’re asking is the one with the legacy experience on this client account.
This is a similar conversation I’ve heard time and time again — the fact that you’ve got a regular employee trying to “manage” a contractor.
But it goes beyond that. I’ve managed many contract workers over the years and know that there are big differences between how you “lead” contractors versus regular employees, although there is one big similarity on how you get them all to work together collaboratively.
In many industries in U.S., contract workers — i.e., the contingent workforce — has been on the rise. According to a recent article by Dr. John Sullivan titled Measuring Performance Across Your Total Workforce, the contingent labor force in the U.S. is 20-25%, and that still may be conservative.
According to Dr. Sullivan:
When you take service provider labor into consideration, it’s quite possible that more than 50% of the work executed for your organization to deliver its goods and services to market is accomplished by a non employee. The migration to a more contingent workforce didn’t happen overnight. Following every economic contraction in the last 30 years, the use of contingent labor as a component of the total workforce has increased, often by double-digit year over year rates.
More than 50%! And while he goes on to discuss how organizations must do a better job on contingent talent management, performance management and workforce planning, I’m just going to deal with influencing.
Yes, influencing. With integrity.
Contingent labor is vital to organizational flexibility in this crazy non-stop world of topsy-turvy business. But we as leaders of all shapes, sizes and stages, and individual “regular” contributors as well as freelancers and service providers, must all learn to influence one another with integrity in order to get work done on time and on budget. That’s one of six Smart Skills™ we encourage folks to develop in their organizations.
Sounds fanciful and touchy-feely, but what the heck does it mean?
Influencing is about getting people throughout an organization to collaborate on various projects and initiatives; in some cases, even when they cannot see the direct benefit to their own organization. It’s about hitting the target collectively with limited if any negative friction.
This is huge. It’s one thing to top-down command “inside” full-time or part-time staff to do your bidding, but in many states you best be really careful on how you treat contractors, because they aren’t the same. (I’ve had a few remind me of that one.)
And does top-down commanding really get the exciting productive work done that retains your best talent and drives revenue?
No. Plus, have you ever managed a project, or worked on one, where there are multiple players from various parts of the organization, contractors, even service providers?
That takes influence finesse. Influencing with integrity requires you to get others to:
- Commit Actively – Influencing is not just a situational activity but rather part of an active strategy to build relationships, credibility and reputation. In project management, it is common to work for and with many of the same people repeatedly, over a period of time. The building of relationships is critical to the ability to influence, now and in the future.
- Commit Publicly – When agreements are made with others (to go in a particular direction, support an initiative, or provide resources, etc.) it is vital to have their commitment announced publicly. For your efforts to pay off, others must know and honor the commitment, as well as recognize the collaboration and the power that it represents.
- Commit Voluntarily – The essence of influencing is getting others to volunteer to support your efforts. When you win someone over, they must feel that they have not been manipulated or coerced into a position but rather helped to see the wisdom of participating.
Get to that committing.
Be better and brighter.