When your entire team is working from home, normal ways of catching up on team deliverables go out the door. When you were all working at an office, it was easy to run into Habib from Accounting in the break room and ask if he’s taken care of those invoices. Or Ricardo from HR to see if those new compliance policies are done yet. Or pasting the 10th sticky note on Mary’s screen reminding her you needed that approval three days ago.
Anyway, you get the idea. There are a lot more ways to “encourage” people to be accountable when everyone’s working in the same building than when they’re spread out all over town.
When building team accountability, here’s how to ensure everyone knows what they have to do and when to get it done.
Traditional minutes spend an inordinate amount of time laying out who was at the meeting, when it was held, who called the meeting to order, etc. etc. etc. You shouldn’t lead with the boring details of the meeting mechanics, so skip over Robert’s Rules of Orders and get right to what matters — who is accountable for what and what their deadlines are.
After that, you can list all the other information.
Be proactive in reminding people of what you need from them because invariably, they’ll forget, or it’ll be shoved way down to the bottom of their to-do list. Dashboards can be a big help in facilitating follow-up because you can add auto-reminders for tasks that must be acknowledged with a click. If that click doesn’t happen, you can follow up (by message, text, phone call, LinkedIn message, showing up at their door, whatever) to ensure things are moving forward.
We developed our own methodology that we call Days of the Week that has strategies to overcome distance-based. Everyone on our team gets extensive training on this.
At our company, we schedule regular departmental meetings with set agendas. Before each meeting, everyone posts their (hopefully) succinct status slide in the team meeting space of the dashboard. We block out individual time in our calendars to review the slides before the call. When meeting time comes, if there’s little to discuss, everyone gets some time back in their day. However, if there’s a large issue on the agenda, we haul out our online whiteboards and get to work.
This kind of regular schedule encourages team accountability. That’s why there should be a clear expectation built around reporting on assignments and submitting status updates daily or from week to week (or whatever your meeting schedule is). If everyone finds the window is too short between windows and there’s not enough to report, then push out the reporting period. But maybe also look at why there’s not enough to report!
Finally, don’t ever think accountability is going to automatically happen or be handled by the Remote Work Fairy.
Instead, send action item reminders before meetings and follow up afterwards with new assignments so everyone is clear on their responsibilities. Designate someone to take minutes during the meeting on items related to the agenda and have that person send them out in a timely fashion (in other words, not in the middle of the next meeting).
I’ve been involved in enough meetings where, even if detailed minutes are taken, someone will still want to argue about who really said what during the conversation. There’s one simple way to end all those conflicts, and that’s by making sure each meeting is recorded. That’s a pretty easy thing to accomplish with a virtual team because most remote meeting tech tools have a record feature. You can even automate that feature in most programs.
Legal Disclaimer: Laws differ as to whether you need written or oral approval to have a meeting recorded, so double-check the legal situation for you and others who participate. And finally, when you’re discussing personnel issues, press the pause button on the recording. Some remarks can come back to haunt the speaker.
We’ve moved into the new normal. Remote calls, virtual projects, and cross-functional teams will all require new, innovative strategies.
With increased demand for hybrid and fully remote work styles, most firms understand that some form of distance work is here to stay – and have put some remote protocols in place. But are they the right ones?
It’s time to take advantage of the many opportunities remote work presents. Stop saying “we’re not there yet,” and start saying “we’ve arrived!”
This book will show you how.
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