As the COVID-19 crisis shifts a radical departure from traditional office environments, it also opens many opportunities for embracing a culture of accountability for your remote work teams. A culture of accountability comes with many advantages. It can encourage trust, motivate high standards, and establish credibility for leaders.

The freelancer, the copywriter, the founder — everyone is working remotely. So, how do you engage them with meaningful responsibility[1]? Start here with some tips and best practices for sharing the value of accountability and promoting pride of ownership across your remote work teams.

Ask the Right Questions

Fundamental to any business or organizational success is understanding why your team exists. One way to understand what makes an actual team is first to determine work that’s better suited for team collaboration. Resist the urge to task each individual to do their own thing, and instead, shift focus to the employee group. The challenge of communicating effectively with remote team members is not easy — but it can be. Creating and facilitating better collaboration opportunities can be done in multiple ways, such as asking why your team is a team?[2] Why is your work important — and why does that matter?

You might be surprised at how these answers set the stage to discuss your work’s essence and uncover the reasons why your team contribution is valuable to overall business success. Facilitate this discussion at your weekly stand-ups, or in the new normal — your weekly sit-downs. Have each team member share their answers, note overlaps or wild departures from why the work matters, and boil down solutions to find mutual agreements[3]. This will help your core purpose, align your team, and garner a broader understanding of why your team is essential. This will do more that put work into perspective — it also adds a bonus layer of appreciation for that same work.

Connected Teams Are Responsible Teams

Building a successful remote work environment requires a collaborative approach and voluntary engagement[4]. In a nutshell, connected teams are stronger teams. That being said, with the COVID-19 crisis, how will businesses and organizations face the challenge of getting all of its team into one room[5]? Start by setting expectations for shared responsibility of work. There are subtle differences between how teams and groups look at work projects. A group flaw is to focus on individual goals, and it defeats the purpose of being on the same page with a shared vision or objective. See your team as a group of individual fingers[6]. Although you need each finger, and each can operate on its own, it causes a challenge since each finger can shift in different directions. Instead, see your team as a fist. It’s much stronger with everyone grouped and working toward common goals. Your role as a leader is to connect your team to a shared purpose and operate in unison.

Learn to manage expectations, job demands and personal work styles of your team — and yourself. The team defines a shared goal approach — and not by a manager or leader. Your role is to give your voice to the team — including the quiet ones. Adjust your perspective and adapt to needs. The more you can help your team contribute to the overall purpose, the more you can show their true value to the bottom line. A connected remote team knows that their insights and contributions are valued. It accepts the shift in responsibility to the overall team because it has a voice in the decision-making. This includes having a say on the potential and future direction for work projects. The key to success here is authenticity — don’t open the floor for team voting and make a solo decision. Create an opportunity for them to take meaningful responsibility[7].

It might not always be possible to develop a connection with your team. But, effective team management requires connecting your organization as a unit. By sharing responsibility for the work, you foster more than a culture of accountability — you also foster a culture of belonging. Your team will feel connected and will see the bigger picture of contributing to overall success.

 

Pride and Ownership of Shared Work

Taking an inclusive and collaborative approach to creating a culture of accountability is a critical factor for getting your team on the same page – but it does take time and attention to detail. Start the ball rolling by removing formal and informal hierarchies, and associations with higher titles[8]. Encourage a culture of democracy — and applaud collaboration, problem-solving, and the bottom line of completing work projects. A team that takes pride in high-level work is a team that delivers on its promises.

See your team’s potential, make your expectations clear, freely trust others to do their work, and let them take charge. You already assembled a strong team. Now your job is to step out of the way and empower them to proceed. A leader’s role is to embrace discomfort and give away control — it demonstrates trust and frees up time for you to deliver on other tasks. Always make time to circle back with open dialogue for any potential ideas, questions and concerns. When you establish clear channels of communication, you are telling your team more than the fact that you trust them — it also indicates that you care about their psychological health and safety.

Asking the right questions to your team is critical for developing a broader understanding of why they are essential. It connects your team to a shared purpose and helps put your overall work picture into a bigger perspective.


[1] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[2] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[3] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[4] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[5] Neely, T. (2020) 15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered. Harvard Business Review.

[6] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[7] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[8] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.