Keep Everyone Accountable: How to Help Your Virtual Team Deliver
When your entire team is working from home, normal ways of catching up on projects go out the door. When you were all working at an office, it was easy to run into Mary from Accounting in the break room and ask if she’s taken care of those invoices. Or Rick from HR to see if those new compliance policies are done yet. Or Weird Willie from Shipping to question why he’s not wearing shoes, socks or…pants???
Be proactive in reminding people of what you need from them.
Anyway, you get the idea. There’s a far greater awareness of accountability 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 make sure everyone knows what they have to do and when they have to get it done.
Throw Out Everything You Ever Learned about Meeting Minutes
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.
Assume No One Will Deliver Anything on Time
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, then you can follow up (by message, text, phone call, LinkedIn message, showing up at their door, whatever) to make sure things are moving forward.
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Keep a Set Schedule
Tip: Keep status slides, meeting notes, and updates organized with dashboards. We have templates that can help.
At our company, we schedule regular departmental meetings with set agendas. Before each meeting, everyone posts their (hopefully) very 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. If there’s a large issue on the agenda, however, 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 (her name is Esmeralda, by the way, and she’s just not dependable).
Instead, send action item reminders before meetings and follow up afterward 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).
Hit the Record Button
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 on what the legal situation is 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, especially if the subject is Weird Willie!
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