When something happens at Ghost Blog Writers and it affects what we deliver to a client I have trained myself to look at it a certain way. I don’t know if it’s a tendency for everyone, but it seems that most people might look at what someone else missed instead of looking at what they missed when something goes wrong.
At GBW we have procedures for uploading posts to client websites. Sometimes a step gets missed. It’s usually nothing too major, but it still makes you cringe a little bit even if it’s a quick fix. It would be easy to think that the person following the procedure was just missing something, but I’ve tried to take a different approach.
Now I look at it like it was my mistake…because it was. I wasn’t able to communicate properly with the procedure because if I was the mistake wouldn’t have been made.
I’m still leaning to improve communication with employees, but I’ve learned a few basic lessons.
Lesson 1. Procedures Work, But Need To Be Flexible
I like the idea of creating procedures for tasks. And it seems to work with the writers and others on the GBW Team. It’s a document that communicates the way we’ve figured out how to complete tasks.
Early on I would use mostly text in the procedure, but now they’re filled with screenshots to help anyone reading through it to understand exactly how to do a task.
It takes time to create a procedure, but it’s well worth the time investment in the long run. It’s time to put it together and I also realize that it’s time for the person performing the task to go through it. But I ask them to do it the first time and maybe the first couple times so that things are done correctly and they save time in the long run.
It’s better to get it right instead of doing it wrong and then having to go back in the future to make corrections.
And that’s the last point. The procedures need to be fluid or flexible. I look to the writers to provide feedback and insight into better ways of doing things. They’re in there uploading posts or writing posts all the time so they naturally find ways to do things better and more efficiently. So we use that insight to always make improvements.
Lesson 2. Communicate More Up Front
We have a unique situation at Ghost Blog Writers, but I think it can apply across industries and in the startup world. When we bring in a new writer we usually have them work on a first post. Then I try to provide as much feedback as possible. I’ll share my thoughts on just about every word in the post with the writer. Most of the feedback I provide is positive feedback. I think that’s important for two reasons.
First, it lets the person know that they did a good job and that their effort is appreciated. Second, it shows the person that this kind of content is something they should continue doing with future posts.
And I try to provide my suggestions for changing. Usually it might be little things like how to add headings to the posts or something like that. Or it could be how to add source links for studies mentioned and things like that. Or maybe it has to do with the format of the post or the intro, the conclusion and things like that.
Whatever it is I try to go almost overboard with the first feedback. I think that’s the best way to communicate early on. It cuts down on the need for it later on and you kind of get a feel if the person will be the right fit for the company. You can see how they respond with the second post and beyond.
And that brings us to the next lesson.
Lesson 3. Sometimes It Just Isn’t A Good Fit
This is also something to realize: sometimes things just aren’t going to work out. Not everyone is a good fit for everyone else. We find that happen with writers and we find it happen with clients. Sometimes it’s best to just agree to go your separate ways. And that takes communication when you first start seeing the early warning signs.
We all learn from experience or at least we hope that we do. This helps us to develop early warning signs for things in life. When I see that a writer might have an issue getting work in on time or if they’re not able to follow the procedure I’ll look at what I did wrong with the procedure and make changes. But if things continue and I can’t make a fix on my end then I try to communicate with the writer that it’s not going to work out. I don’t want to waste more of their time and vice versa if it’s never going to be a good fit.
The biggest thing to take away from this post is that it’s worth the effort up front to make sure the information you communicate to your employees is clear. It’s not always their fault if things aren’t going well. Look in the mirror and see if you can improve the communication. I know that taking that approach at GBW seems to lead to a better work environment and to a better product. And I’m going to continue to try and make improvements like this as GBW continues.