I recently organized an event for Lean In Canada's Vancouver Chapter where we invited Tara Jean Stevens, co-host of Breakfast Television, to share her stories on how she managed up to ensure success in her career. The talk was an informative one, and what I realized coming out of the event was that not only is it important to manage UP, it's just as important, if not more, to know how to manage "horizontally".
In a world place and changing economy where a lot of people are freelancers, consultants, or work in jobs requiring them to work with different teams of people on different projects, it's important for us to manage horizontally to ensure the team is getting the job done and not spending all their time dancing around politics.
CASE IN POINT, today when a company to launch a new product, the process may involve several different companies:
- Creative Company to come up with branding and design
- Video production team to produce tv and promotional video clips
- Photographer to shoot the brand visuals
- Stylist to design the look and feel of the brand
- Marketing team to oversee the various vendor parties
- Ethnic marketing team to reach ethnic market
- PR team to manage brand image in-market
- Website developer to build online brand presence
- SEO Specialist to improve online ranking
- Online marketing team to oversee online ad buy
I challenge you to try and draw a map illustrating who reports to who and which parties are supposed to work together and share knowledge. Besides the obvious point of the internal marketing team being at the top of this hierarchy, how do the other teams that each plug into the project figure out where they fit? This is just a sample of what most projects nowadays looks like, with a surge in freelancers offering specialized services.
It's important to build a reputation of being easy to work with and conscientious of other freelancer parties to the project, so you can all work in harmony. Here are a few things you should NOT do:
- Point out the mistakes of other parties directly to the client; what you SHOULD do is to reach out directly to the other freelancer party to try and resolve the issue first. They should be open to assisting you, and appreciate you for not jumping past them to pick at their wrongs.
- CC everyone in all emails. Ask the related parties who should be cc'ed on the emails to ensure messages reach the right people for maximum efficiency and minimal redundancy.
- Manage UP to help your client understand how to manage DOWN. With the changing work environment, your clients are also learning how to best work with numerous contractors and freelancers, and if you have a suggestion to streamline their management process, offer the advice, they will greatly appreciate someone who understands their struggles as well.
- Get in the middle of the politics. Remember you are here to contribute to the job, not to the gossip.
It's important to observe and acknowledge the changing work place and interdependent relationships within and external to a company. Your career path depends on how you can expertly navigate the various temporary parties you will interact with. Learn how to manage all around!