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Leading Teams To Accountability Takes More Effort

Leading remote teams to accountability is a struggle because leaders sometimes forget a crucial distinction with a difference.

They forget that accountability and responsibility aren’t the same things.

The author and marketer Seth Godin put the distinction well:

Leading Remote Teams To Accountability

Accountability is done to you. It’s done by the industrial system, by those that want to create blame.

Responsibility is done by you. It’s voluntary. You can take as much of it as you want.

Seth Godin

But in systems where passing blame and taking credit are signs that a person is advancing up the ladder, leaders may struggle to lead teams when the ladder moves and now, in a remote environment, trust in others becomes more important than blame or credit.

How is a leader to get her people to be accountable—or responsible—if she can’t see what they’re doing 24/7?

Leading Remote Teams To Accountability

Avoid Accountability Pitfalls of the Victim Cycle

In dysfunctional organizations and on dysfunctional teams, where trust is low, remote work opportunities may never have been considered before now, primarily because, on teams where there is low trust, there is a high degree of probability that team members are hiding from accountability in varying stages of the victim cycle.

Explained by the great folks at Partners In Leadership, authors of The Oz Principle, the victim cycle consists of six, distinct steps:

  • Ignore/Deny
  • It’s Not My Job
  • Finger Pointing
  • Confusion/Tell Me What to Do
  • Cover Your Tail
  • Wait and See

When teams are trapped in the victim cycle, leaders must work overtime to establish trust, particularly in times of chaos and disruption.

When things go wrong in businesses in average companies the leaders will look outside to explain why the numbers are down – the economy is bad, trade regulations worked against us, the weak currency hit us hard. The best companies will look internally and accept accountability and address bad news head-on, understanding what is going wrong with the business and changing it. Accountable companies take action when the market changes or economy drops and do something about it to ensure their success. This can mean making hard decisions.

Victim attitudes – where employees look for the quick fix and worry more about perception than results – can erode productivity, competitiveness, morale, and trust. Your organization will not succeed in the long run unless people take accountability for long term results. The power and ability to rise above your circumstances and achieve what you desire resides within you, not in the latest management fad or promise from management consultants. And now, in a world of remote opportunities, it is crucial for leaders to break victim cycles and accomplish real work with their teams, in spite of the anxiety of the present moment.

The Oz Principle

Here are some tips to make this problem more manageable for remote teams.

Leading Remote Teams To Accountability

What Are We To Make of All of This?

Leaders can take the following actions to ensure that they will have success with creating accountable and responsible remote teams, as well as ensure than there is a high level of productivity even after the work world returns to “normal.”

Leading Remote Teams To Accountability

Engage with 1:1 meetings—So many leaders resist the emotional content involved in establishing rapport with team members one on one. This is a missed opportunity to grow trust and establish clear relationships that cannot be overused in a remote context.

Coaching based on the GROW Model—Many leaders confuse coaching and mentoring and for good reason: they both involve goal setting, they both involve relationships, and they can both get messy. The difference between mentoring and coaching is that coaching is about accomplishing short to mid-term goals, focusing on the elements of the GROW Model: Goal, Reality, Options, Will. Whereas mentoring is much more about creating a relationship with an individual based on their life, their career trajectory, and even their personal goals.

Clearly communicated expectations—Leaders sometimes resist repeating expectations or have the expectation that followers will just “know” the right thing to do. This is a misnomer at best and blind at worst, and on remote teams, expectations need to be reinforced and repeated clearly as well as be backed up by consequences if they aren’t met.

Define success in a remote context clearly and repeatedly—The number one reason that many people leave remote work, and even struggle working in hybrid scenarios with remote team members or even on-site team members is disengagement. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a phenomenon that leaders of remote teams need to understand can only be battled by defining success clearly and repeatedly and including everyone in the conversation.

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