A recent survey of U.S. employees found that nearly half of the respondents say they would likely look for another job if their employee does not offer a hybrid workplace. It’s the fodder for memes on social media and it’s the topic of many discussions in leadership circles. See the survey here.
What does that mean for you and your team?
Are you expecting your team to come back to the office full time?
If your team is already back in the office, are you getting more requests for flexible schedules and more work from home options?
For many of the small- to medium-sized organizations that I work with, I’m hearing a growing concern for how to respond to this growing tension of remote work. We know that relationships, trust, camaraderie - many of the things that help build good team dynamics and great culture - are important reasons for your team to office together.
I don’t believe this is an “either/or” scenario.
I believe you can build great culture AND provide flexible work options.
But I do think there is one primary reason that organizations get stuck while attempting to make this both/and scenario a reality: Accountability
In many small- to medium-sized organizations, accountability was directly related to your proximity. Lacking systems to support accountability, we could walk down the hall, yell over the cubicle wall or gather everyone together for a meeting to ensure we were on target with our goals.
Our lack of discipline to create healthy systems for accountability forced us to manage by proximity.
Accountability by proximity is a poor model and a grossly ineffective one in a hybrid work world.
Without healthy rhythms of accountability, leaders take on a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde management personality. One day you’re believing the best in your team, slapping virtual high fives and trusting that they are working diligently on your greatest priorities. The next day you’re chasing them down and micro-managing details because a ball was dropped and you’ve lost all faith in your team’s ability to meet expectations.
Accountability builds culture. How you handle accountability determines the type of culture you create.
So let’s look at some effective ways to build a rhythm of accountability that becomes core to your culture and sets your team up for success.
Make clean agreements. Have you ever left a meeting wondering when (or if) what you just discussed will actually get done? If so, you lacked a clean agreement. Clean agreements mean that everyone involved agrees on who is doing what by when. Sounds ridiculously simple, but clarifying WHO is doing WHAT by WHEN (a specific date) is the forerunner to accountability. If we have not provided this clarity, it’s difficult to hold people accountable.
Write a remote work policy. I know…you cringed at the word “policy,” but this is one area that the specific clarity of a policy is really important. You must be clear and consistent with your remote work expectations. As you consider your flexible work options, you set specific expectations for when employees are required to be in the office. Which meetings must they attend? If you have different categories for employees (i.e. those who are full-time in the office, those who have a hybrid schedule and those who are fully remote), you must clarify the distinctions among these categories, what you will or will not provide, etc. Being consistent and clear is essential.
Review your rhythms for accountability. Are your meeting agendas consistent? Are you keeping your one-on-one meetings with your staff? Do you hold monthly or quarterly all-staff meetings in person? Set a rhythm for meetings that ensures consistency which, in turn, ensures accountability.
In order to move into this next season with the healthiest culture possible and to have the best plan in place for your team moving forward with flexibility, your approach to accountability is crucial. Take some time to evaluate your systems of accountability and begin to implement changes if needed.
We have a helpful FREE resource to guide you through best practices for great meetings, one of the best mechanisms for accountability. Click here for the Better Meetings Worksheet.
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.