Six months into the pandemic, your team is working remotely and things seem to be going ok. Your team members say the right things but these days you can’t stop by their desk and check how things are going. You trust them but you wonder what progress they are making. At the same time, you don’t want to challenge them because that would feel like a breakdown of trust.
This scenario is one of the conflicts many managers face. How to ensure their team is getting things done while providing the flexibility they need to work remotely. This is the challenge of how to hold your remote team accountable without resorting to controlling them.
What Happens If You Don’t Hold Your Team Accountable
In many companies, this comes to a head during the individual performance assessment cycle. Managers tend to rate people more toward the average when they don’t have clear evidence of over and under performance. This disappoints high performers who’ve gone the extra mile and may increase the risk of them leaving. It also doesn’t address poor performance which festers and potentially spreads through the organization. Neither scenario has a good ending.
When your team is working remotely, it is important to invest more time and focus on managing accountability. I’ve outlined below four key practices every manager needs to focus on to do this.
Four Key Practices To Generate Accountability
Align on expectations
Positive accountability starts with setting and aligning on clear expectations. This is a conversation about what the team member needs to achieve and why. A critical mistake is telling the team member, in essence dictating what they must do. At best, this will create compliance but it will not lead to their best work. The goal is to generate commitment, where the team member is fully engaged to do the work. The manager will generate commitment if they listen well and make it safe for the team member to say no. In essence creating a true alignment on what is to be done.
Focus on outcomes
When setting expectations, make sure the outcome is clear and you both agree. What does success look like and how will you measure it? Ask the team member to describe it in their own words to ensure alignment.
Establish regular checkpoints to review the status of the work. The goal of this conversation is to assess the likelihood of achieving the outcome. The team members are responsible to give an assessment of whether they will achieve the goal and ask for any help they need. If the manager takes over, they remove the accountability previously established. Instead, the manager needs to act as a coach. If the work is not on track, support the team member to learn how to be successful.
This step may seem the most obvious but is often forgotten. The manager takes time to assess the work completed against the success criteria. By following these steps, the manager will more likely declare success and reward the team member accordingly.
The above practices take time and attention to do well. The alternative is to abdicate responsibility and risk an undesired outcome or to try to exert control. Both alternatives take much more time and effort in the long run.
Generating commitment is a foundational leadership philosophy at Oyster. We work with our clients to help them learn practically how to do this. To help you learn how to generate commitment and hold your team accountable, you can access a two page summary of the Commitment Based Management Cycle at the link below.