Feedback is Even More Important for Freelancers

Freelancers and freelancing is often misunderstood.

For example, “freelancers do it so that they can wake up at noon” and “freelancing is just like being in a bigger company, only solo.” …and one of the biggest misconceptions that freelancers themselves make is that, now that we’re our own bosses, we’re done getting performance reviews. Not exactly.

In this Brain Boost, we’re going to look at the changing world of feedback and performance improvement. It’s changing in larger organizations as the good ones abandon aging practices like performance reviews in favor of people analytics and continuous improvement practices. It’s also changing in the broader workforce as many of us become remote workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and contract workers.

In a work environment where you have few colleagues you also have relatively few opportunities to receive feedback. This makes people who work in these situations weaker because they have fewer opportunities to improve.

Now that I have been collaborating with people and working in distributed workforce situations for a while, I realize how important feedback is.

At minimum, after each project or freelance engagement you should proactively exchange feedback with your counterparts on three things:

1) What could be better about the workflow?
2) Were the communication channels, were the timing of the communications, and was the nature of the communications done well?
3) What could have been better about the work product?

Remember my freelancer, entrepreneur, and contract worker friends–feedback makes us stronger and, when we’re working in small teams, it’s up to us to manage our own improvement!

If you’re interested in getting better at exchanging feedback, here’s a link to Eazl’s award-winning Feedback course.

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From Harvard Business Review: Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit

prevent burnout

“’I am sick to death of the ridiculous situations I have to deal with at work. The pettiness, the politics, the stupidity — it’s out of control. This kind of thing stresses me out to the max.’

Stress is a happiness killer. And life is just too short to be unhappy at work. But we hear this kind of thing all the time from leaders in industries as varied as financial services, education, pharmaceuticals, and health care. In our coaching and consulting, we’re seeing a spike in the number of leaders who used to love their jobs but now say things like, “I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore.” They’re burned out — emotionally exhausted and cynical, as a result of chronic and acute work stress.

Why is stress on the rise? A lot of it has to do with uncertainty in the world and constant changes in our organizations. Many people are overworking, putting in more hours than ever before. The lines between work and home have blurred or disappeared. Add to that persistent (sometimes even toxic) conflicts with bosses and coworkers that put us on guard and make us irritable. Under these circumstances, our performance and well-being suffer. Work feels like a burden. Burnout is just around the corner. And happiness at work is not even a remote possibility.

Here’s the good news: Some people don’t get burned out. They continue to thrive despite the difficult conditions in their workplace.”

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Ludell Jones on Finding Your Philosophy

“Rules are not necessarily sacred. Principles are.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

As the world around us changes at an increasingly rapid clip, we need to compliment learning and working with philosophical study. Operating from a solid set of principles leads us to make better decisions and to be stronger and more resilient.

Operating from principle tends to ground us when there is uncertainty.

Here’s how Elon Musk writes about principles: “I tend to approach things from a physics framework. And physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy.” (Find his 2012 interview in WIRED Magazine.)

What are some of your principles?

You might also enjoy reading Ludell’s long-form blog post on the EazlBlog about keeping control of your own definition of success.

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Giving and Receiving Feedback at Work: Davis-Hans Feedback Session

Watch our live feedback session this Thursday at 4pm Eastern time. Click here to set a reminder so you don’t miss it!

💪🏽 LIVE: Watch Davis and Hans Exchange Feedback after a Freelance Collaboration 💪🏽

Receiving feedback is something that I used to be really bad at.

As more of us become responsible for our own performance improvement, start working as freelancers or independent contractors, or launch our own businesses, we need to remember something about feedback: it’s powerful. It’s how we get stronger, more resilient, and ultimately, more capable and LIBERATED.

Here’s what happened: Hans Jonassen, a member of the Eazl community, hired me to help him write his resume and, while I was doing it, I learned that Hans is a kick-ass copywriter. So I hired him to work on some of Eazl’s projects.

At the end of our work together, I reached out to Hans so that I could give him feedback on his work and so that he could give me feedback on my participation in the project.

In this livestream, we’re going to have a candid conversation about what each of us could have done better.

Use this conversation as a learning tool for how you can exchange feedback with your fellow collaborators or peers and share your feedback with us. We rise together.

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Career & Business Book Haul (Summer 2017)

This post is part of our Summer Scale Up series. We’re helping you scale yourself and accomplish more.

career and business book haul

One way to start giving yourself regular Brain Boost (like the ones we publish every Friday) is to commit to making reading a regular part of your week (and your life!).

Reading is an essential part of being a well rounded person and achieving the success that you want. Big readers are more intelligent, better writers, and have a more robust toolbox for dealing with challenges and difficult situations.

We recently took a trip to Myopic Books in Chicago -a FANTASTIC book store to check out if you are ever in the city- and came back with a HUGE HAUL of books to inspire our work with Eazl.

Myopic doesn’t have a large business book section but you’d be surprised at what kind of inspiration and guidance you can find from literature that isn’t technically in the business category. At Eazl, we look to philosophy, history, sociology, and a slew of other topics for guidance in our business, our lives, and our personal career trajectories.

Here are the treasures we came back with (we spent an average of about $10 per book).

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

status anxiety by alain de botton
Summary: de Botton takes a look at history, philosophy, economics, art, and politics as they relate to growing status anxiety in the modern world.

Significance: This kind of topic and inspection on why people (aka consumers) behave the way they do is insightful on a career level and on a skills-of-life level. Imagine being able to better tap into what motivates humans in order to either be persuasive or create more positive interactions with others.

How I’ll apply it: There’s no doubt that what I’m learning from this book will show up in Eazl content somewhere. We’ve created content on similar topics before (like The Science of Happiness and Social Status). I’m also using it as research for an independent project that I’m working on.

The Division of Labor in Society by Emile Durkheim

the division of labor in society by emile dirkheim

Summary: Originally published in 1893, Durkheim wrote a lot about how societies could maintain their integrity the modern era; a time in which the Industrial Revolution was changing the landscape of society.

Durkheim presents a new vision of the social structures and the issues caused by capitalism (still relevant today). He argued that uncontrolled state power could lead to the end of individuality and believed that only a free society that promotes voluntary bonds between its members will result in the prosperity of individuals.

Significance: Concerning the current political and economic climate, this book is 100% relevant for our content on the future of work and for our own careers.

How I’ll apply it: I haven’t started on this one yet, but I’m guessing it could lead to a blog post at minimum.

Good Work by Gardener, Csikszentmihayli, and Damon

good work

Summary: Co-written by three renowned psychologists, Good Work provides strategies for creating a work life that is both expert and socially responsible based on real life stories from real professionals. They set out to prove that ethical success -in a world where market forces drive all- is possible.

Significance: This topic comes up a lot when we work with our students and clients on their career planning. There is always the question, “Is it possible to be both values driven and wildly successful?”

How I’ll apply it: I’m not sure about the level of sophistication in how the information is presented. I’ve been on the business ethics train for a while. Maybe I’ll learn something new or discover some tips for increasing profits in an ethical way. Not sure what to expect.

 

A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

a book of five rings

Summary: Written by the great swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi in 1645, the five books are the stories Musashi taught to his own students in his dojo. The teachings have been used and applied to business strategies in Japan all throughout the 20th century.

Significance:It is common to view business as a military operation and that mindset is pervasive throughout the business world. Whether or not you agree or opt into this kind of thinking, it is important to understand the approach that many other business owners and C-suite professionals are taking if you are going to operate alongside them.

How I’ll apply it: Not sure if I’ll apply this knowledge to my own career at all because, honestly, my approach to business and success is far more feminine and I don’t really know where military/warrior techniques fit into my life. It’s good to know how other entrepreneurs -in Japan in particular- are approaching business.

 

The Work of Nations by Robert Reich

the work of nations

Summary: Reich explores the effects of globalism has on the economy and job market today. How can normal Americans compete? What skills are the most valuable? And how can we ensure that all can benefit from the global economy. This book is well informed, ahead of its time and published in the 90s. A lot of the issues he covers may be familiar to you today but the masses weren’t attuned to this thinking 20 years ago.

Significance: So obviously relevant today politically and economically, the writer makes some interesting observations and warnings that may put some things in perspective for American workers.

How I’ll apply it: What Reich writes about in The Work of Nations is significant for all of us in America. We create a ton of content on the future of work (like How Blockchain will Revolutionize the World’s Data, There are Big Opportunities in Craft Products, Get e-Citizenship in Estonia) and will definitely continue keeping our community informed about the future of the labor market.

 

The Essential Essays of Reinhold Neibuhr

the essential reinhold niebuhr

Summary: Reinhold Niebuhr was a Theologian, ethicist, and political analyst and one of the primary figures of twentieth-century religious thought.  In these essays Nieburh, a liberal Protestant theologian, examines the catastrophes of the 20th century with “optimistic pessimism”.

Significance: Whether you are religious or not, you’ll find value in Neibuhr’s approach to examining human behavior and ethics.

How I’ll apply it: I’m not sure if the learnings in this book will show up in anything formally or if it will be used just for personal study. Regardless, if it does have a significant enough of an impact on the way I think, you’ll be seeing some version of it in some form or another, whether it’s in a blog post, a vlog, or the way I interact with the Eazl community. I would consider my (short) life’s work thus far to be related to ethics and values so I find what Neibuhr has to say incredibly invaluable.

Fun to note: Barack Obama views Nieburh’s work as instrumental in his own development.

 Other Books at My Bedside

Bandwidth Allocation (Productivity) in Theory and Practice

This free video is part of our Summer Scale Up series. We’re helping you accomplish more with a month of helpful content on scaling yourself in July.

In this video, you’re going to learn about why maximum productivity is important.

This video is an excerpt from the Maximizing Your Personal Productivity section of our Advanced Management Training.

Advanced Management Training is an MBA in a box! You’ll learn hiring, mentorship, communication & persuasion, productivity hacks, negotiation & leadership skills, + more.

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How to Make a Good Hire on Upwork

This post is part of our series, Summer Scale Up. We’re helping you scale yourself and accomplish more.

working virtually upwork

Outsourcing parts of your business is something that has the potential to completely change your company or freelance practice. It can accelerate your growth and free up your own time for tasks that use your talents if it’s done right.

I’ve found Upwork to be a quality source for freelancers and it’s worth learning how to make a good hire there. A couple of our virtual assistants and project team members were found there and we now have a process for making sure we hire the best person for the job.

  1. Don’t write a crap job description
    The first step to making a good hire on Upwork is making sure your job description reflects exactly what you need well. You’ll attract better candidates that way.

What qualifies as a “crap” job description:

  • Copying and pasting another company’s job posting just because the title of the position is the same. There is NO WAY that you are looking exactly for what another company is looking for. Do the work and really put the time and effort into communicating what YOU need because bringing someone else on, virtual or not, is a big decision.
  • Not putting in the time and neglecting to include enough information. If you only provide a few sentences about what you need and don’t include enough context, you’re going to attract candidates who will submit the same kind of low quality work.
  • Only focusing on personality/work style or skills. You need both hard and soft skills to make this important partnership work.
  • Sounding like a jerk who is looking for a subservient person. Actually, scratch that. If you sound that way, you probably are that way and it’s better for everyone that you don’t take the good candidates’ time so they can work for someone else who is a better manager/human being. Good work relationships are about mutual respect. Get in the mindset that you are looking for a team member.

A good job description includes:

  • A list of the top skills required to perform the job, including any technical skills
  • The length of the engagement
  • Performance expectations
  • Information about your company and/or product
  • How and when you will make your decision
  • What the work dynamic will be (communication via email or phone, teamwork required, whether you prefer someone who can work during the work week*, how you like to work, when the work needs to be completed, weekly time budget, etc.)

*There are a lot of freelancers who have full time jobs during the week and make extra money on the weekends with Upwork. Keep in mind that these candidates won’t send deliverables until the weekend. In many situations, this could work. Just keep in mind that a full time freelancer is quite different than someone who hasn’t yet made the move to quit their day job. Personally, I prefer someone who can make progress WITH me during the normal work week and I don’t turn my email off on the weekends so I’d rather not see updates from a VA on Saturdays and Sundays.

  1. Use your interactions with the candidate as measurement
    Don’t stop at their portfolio or reviews. Take advantage of the messaging capabilities of the platform and get a little back and forth going before you make a decision to hire or hop on Skype for a short interview. You’ll be surprised on what you can pick up from a texted conversation if you just pay attention.

Ongoing messaging is a great way to assess:

  • Timeliness– If it takes a while for the candidate to get back and you are moving forward with other potential team members, they might not be the most reliable. You need someone who is reasonably responsive and candidates will be the most anxious to get back when they are looking for new work. Not a good sign if they lag in these early stages. I usually look for an Upwork freelancer to get back to me within 24 hours and that’s what I expect once I’ve hired them as well. 
  • Intelligence– Blatant misspellings, sentence structure, and grammar mistakes will help you initially weed out the less talented. It doesn’t matter if what you need them to do doesn’t involve writing. Smart people read and develop writing skills from reading so a person with poor writing skills might not be that interested in learning and that is not a good hire, especially in the virtual world when they will be working independently and will have to figure some things out on their own.
  • Personality– Do they anticipate what you need to make your hiring decision by including details? Do they seem equally concerned about finding a good fit? Are they humble? Does their level of formality fit what you are looking for? Or simply, did you enjoy interacting with them?
  1. Don’t settle for the first applicant
    You’re going to find a better fit for you if you use a pool of applicants, first weeding out the ones you can tell you don’t want to hire based on their initial message to you, their portfolio and/or resume, and their reviews.

Then, after messaging back and forth with the remaining candidates, pick two or three that you 1) feel are the most capable for the job, 2) enjoyed interacting with the most, and 3) were the most timely.

  1. Take advantage of Skype
    Especially if the job will involve some interaction via phone or Skype, schedule a quick Skype call with your top two or three picks. There is a lot you can tell about a candidate in even just ten minutes.

Tip: Even if you will only require correspondence via email or text for the actual, it could also be a good idea to get your candidates on a video call. Once you make that personal connection, your hire will feel like they actually know you and will feel more accountable.

Do you have any tips for hiring freelancers? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

From Jessika Jake: Dealing With Difficult People in the Workplace

This is an excerpt from an original post by Jessika Jake.

jessika-jake

bullying-aggressive-behavior-workplace-764x430

“It’s interesting to track the legal precedents that have been set (though also, in my case, promptly forget them and not bookmark them), but I will tell you this: Any good (and law-abiding) company will have a policy against bullying and aggressive behavior. If you are bringing up a complaint and get patted on the head with “Now, now, it’s just a personality clash,” change the topic to the inarguable, observable behaviors that are being demonstrated. Below is a partial list from ChangingMinds.org’s list of aggressive body language.

  • Facial signals – frowns, pursed lips, sneers, snarls, and stares
  • Stiffness – tensing up, clenching fists
  • Invasion – Invading personal space, false friendships
  • Insulting gestures, large gestures – chin tilts, arm thrusts, exaggerated movements, banging on tables, etc

In addition to aggressive body language, there is also verbal aggression. For an overview, read this Wikipedia entry, which notably highlights:

Workplace aggression can have devastating effects on an organization’s employees.[5] For example, it has been found that targets of workplace aggression report lower levels of well-being.[5] Other studies have shown that aggression in the workplace can cause the victims of such behaviors to suffer from health problems.[26]Bjorkqvist, Osterman, and Hjelt-Back even found that targets exhibited symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as anxiety and depression.[6]

aggressive behavior

New Course Published: The Essentials of Giving and Receiving Feedback

Learn How to Give Constructive Feedback, Build Effective Teams, and Continuously Improve

*Get $5 off the course*

In this course, you’ll develop communication skills, learn specific feedback methods, and see examples of leading group meetings, giving performance reviews, giving real-time constructive feedback, creating a collaborative team culture, and implementing systems that lead to continuous performance improvements.
• Learn to Be a Better Leader with Great Feedback Skills
• How to build trust and between people in a professional setting
• Communication skills for giving effective feedback
• Specific feedback methods and examples of them in action
• Building towards continuous feedback culture (e.g. people operations and analytics)

Master One of the Most Important Skills for Great Managers and Founders
Your ability to give, receive, and use feedback is one of the most critical skills in business and in life–and that’s borne out by research. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review in 2016, internal trust is the #1 predictor of team effectiveness. This course on feedback and team communication is relevant to all professionals–for senior managers, shift leaders, new team members, startup teams, and freelancers.

Communication Can Only Create Positive Change If It’s Done Well
Ideal for a professionals in all industries, organizational structures and sizes, and geographies, in this course you’ll learn how to build trust, how to work with a variety of personalities, how the world’s leading companies attract and retain top talent, when and how to use information that you’re receiving in the form of feedback, and a lot more.

This interactive training series starts with a section on building trust within teams, offering specific, actionable strategies that you can start using right away. This section includes a variety of tools–from formal psychology analyses to fun, collaborative games taught at comedy schools to foster on-stage communication. You’ll learn what these tools are, how to use them, why to use them, and specific step-by-step methods for building team trust.

In section two, you’ll learn communication skills that will help you, your team, and/or your partners and clients exchange feedback to improve outcomes. You’ll learn what good feedback looks and sounds like, what growth-oriented communications are, how to solicit feedback, and how to steer conversations so that you can be a stronger leader or manager. These communication skills are 100% necessary if productive feedback is going to be possible.

In section three you’ll learn specific forms of feedback e.g. how to use group feedback sessions effectively, how to use digital mediums (e.g. messaging apps or email) for feedback, how to be a good coach or mentor, how to lead performance reviews and performance improvement talks, and more. You’ll get specific step-by-step methods for implementing these strategies so that you’re supported with an easy-to-follow structure as you build your skills in this area.

Then, in section four, you’ll see the feedback methods you’ve learned put into action with examples and role-playing exercises performed on screen. This will enable you to see what you’ve learned in action so that you have a learning reference available to you any time you need it.

In the final section, you’ll learn the foundational principles of people operations and people analytics. You’ll start to build your knowledge of continuous feedback methodologies which have proven to be the most effective and rapid prescription for improving performance in a fast-changing world. These methodologies are being used at top firms like Google, Proctor and Gamble, and others.

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From World Economic Forum: Why the most successful businesses have strong values

most successful businesses

“By using a behaviour-based lens instead of a checklist, LRN’s PEI study demonstrated that companies with the highest levels of ethical behaviour are the ones that have placed values at the centre of their organizations.

Among high-performing companies, two-thirds are increasingly focusing on values instead of rules. That compares with one in three of the lowest-performing companies. In fact, the highest-performing organizations in our study have elevated human values to such an extent that more than 90% of those values have become part of the company’s brand appeal. In 70% of high-performing organizations, values have also become a business enabler, providing a reference point for the tough decisions, and in turn leading to better decision-making.”

most successful businesses

 Want a peak at our values and ethics here at Eazl? Visit us on Instagram!