Dale Sprague just returned from the International Executives Association (IEA) Business Innovation Summit in Vancouver, British Columbia. The theme was Rethink Your Business, Develop Profitable Relationships and Transform Your Business.
The keynote and interactive sessions centered around accountability, problem solving, the global economic outlook, surviving the great talent resignation, surprise-proofing your business and the human journey to the future of work.
In many ways, the conference positively reinforced what our business coach, Ira Eichenfield, has taught us through the years. We’re doing many things right, but there is always room for improvement. This blog focuses on the challenges of people working remotely and how to build a culture of accountability.
Working Remotely and How to Keep People Engaged
Covid taught us that many people can function in their jobs, no matter where they are. This is especially true in our business. But, how do you keep everyone involved, on track and happy when you’re not face-to-face every day? The key is accountability and personal connection.
As a leader, you need to provide clear goals, precise direction and well-defined expectations for timelines and outcomes. As an employee, you need to ask questions if you don’t understand, be proactive and take ownership of every project. Straightforward communication on both sides is key for success. Make sure people know they are heard and valued.
This might look like daily or weekly check-ins on status, recognition for jobs well done, or challenges being encountered that might change the trajectory of a project. These issues need to be handled quickly so that there isn’t a domino effect of additional problems.
At Canyon Creative, Dale has virtual video “Monday Meetings” individually with every team member. People send their status reports ahead of time so Dale can review them and to keep time expended reasonable for all involved. These meetings also act as a conduit for any other issues that might crop up affecting schedules or projects, such as doctor’s appointments, getting kids to gymnastics or pets to the vet.
Because some people are working remotely, there has to be a level of trust. A trust that we empower employees to be flexible with their hours to accommodate personal tasks as long as they fulfill their time on the job. It’s a win-win for everyone.
To help with our communication, we also utilize Slack, a robust business messaging app. It’s an inclusive way to keep everyone involved, no matter where they are. We create different channels for the various jobs that come in and invite team members to join. We also have
channels just for fun. For example, people post music they’re listening to, inspiration of all kinds and things that have made them laugh. We also have a channel to showcase new work so that everyone can see what everyone else has accomplished.
Airtable is another easy-to-use, cloud-based platform we use to collaborate with each other, keep status lists, share databases and organize our projects.
One caveat about written communication. It’s imperative to have calls or video calls regularly. There is something about that personal connection that keeps people happy and engaged. An email or text can be misconstrued because everyone’s method of communication is different. You don’t get the subtle nuances in written word that you can hear in the person’s voice or see in their expression. For example, if a message is brief and to the point, you might think the person is angry about something, when that might not be the case at all.
Building a Culture of Accountability
One thing our Business Coach Ira has always stressed is that, as a company, the leadership needs to be accountable and you have to hold your employees to the same accountability standards. But, it all starts at the top.
Building accountability ensures everyone is responsible for their own work, that underperforming people feel an inclination to improve and that potential roadblocks are identified quickly, managed well and rectified expeditiously.
The cost of poor accountability is disruptive and high. Lost revenue, low morale, disengaged employees, inefficiency, decreased productivity, frustration and lack of direction, to name a few. This leads to missed deadlines, sloppy work, unhappy clients, diminished reputation and high employee turnover.
According to Sean Fitzgerald, Chief Transformation Officer and Partner at Results® and speaker at the IEA Summit, there is a thin line that separates success and failure on the accountability ladder.
Above the line, you have I Make It Happen, I See Solutions, I Own It and I See It.
Below the line, there is I Wait and Hope, I Make Excuses, I Blame and Complain and I Am Unaware or Unconscious.
How do you build a culture of accountability?
- Set clear expectations and goals
All employees should understand their roles and responsibilities on an individual and team level. Make sure all recognize the standards for quality of work, service to clients and how to behave toward each other. Be clear about the consequences if they fail to be accountable for their work.
- Hold yourself, managers and administrators accountable first
Set an example of yourself. Practice what you preach and if an employee calls you out for not being accountable, listen and take responsibility for your mistake. Be able to learn and grow. You will earn more respect from your employees and they will be more willing to be accountable to you, the company, the team and clients.
- Have difficult conversations with employees and hold them accountable
One of the most difficult undertakings when building a culture of accountability is having uncomfortable conversations and doling out consequences when employees fail to be accountable. This is why constructive feedback, regular meetings, clear project goals and coaching conversations help get your employees back on track. This doesn’t have to be confrontational. Just be honest and sincere about your expectations and consequences.
- Admit to the mistake
- Apologize for the mistake
- Create a plan to resolve the mistake
- Communicate how you plan to fix the mistake, avoid repeating it and be proactive
- Make sure everyone understands the company mission, vision and values
Your team needs to be in alignment with expectations for company goals, behavior toward management, each other and customers, and understand where you want to go as a company.
At Canyon Creative, we put our values on our website for all to see. We say right up front, “These are the principles that guide us in our lives. They are the rules we try to live by every day, whether professionally or personally. We believe they make us better people.“
- Collaborate with employees and listen to what they say
Keep an open line of communication with your team so they feel confident and comfortable giving feedback and discussing problems that arise. This further helps everyone on the team stay accountable.
When appropriate, allow employees to be actively involved in company decisions. They might have innovative ways to generate new ideas, suggest better ways of doing business and improve your organization’s services and success. When leaders include their team in decisions and value everyone’s ideas, resistance transforms into productive energy.