3 Ways to Create Accountability in a Flexible Work Environment

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 06

Accountability in any workplace is important, but it becomes absolutely critical in flexible work environments. Whether it’s a results-only work environment, a virtual team, or a telecommuting relationship, when you can’t count on a colleague, direct report, or manager to be at work in the same location or at the same time as you, accountability plays an essential role in your ability to accomplish your work. Here are three things you can do to establish accountability in your flexible work environment.

1.     Create a Solid Foundation

You cannot have accountability without clearly defined goals. So if results are fuzzy in your organization, begin here. Accountability starts at the individual level, so break down your department level and team level goals into individual goals. Every goal should be a SMART goal that is both measurable and time-bound. This makes establishing accountability much easier by giving you specific outcomes, numbers, and deadlines.

Managers and employees should work together to establish accountability as well. How do your employees think they should be held accountable? How should your manager be held accountable? What about team members? How will progress be assessed? How often will you receive updates? If a problem arises, who will be notified? What’s the standard process for review and feedback? These are all important questions to address to create a solid foundation for accountability.

2.    Define the Leader’s Role

Accountability is a two-way street between leaders and direct reports. Ultimately, a leader’s job is to make sure all of his or her team members succeed. As a leader, you must keep your team focused on producing results, rather than being busy (e.g., doing a lot of activity). Leaders in results-driven organizations care more about what people accomplish than how hard, when, or where they’re working. Which is more important to you?

If you are in a leadership position, as you meet with your team during the goal setting process, ask each person what they need to succeed. Do you need to remove roadblocks? Provide resources? Clarify goals more thoroughly so accountability can be established? If you’re an employee who needs something specific to meet your goals speak up! Hold you manager accountable to support you and help you succeed.

3.    Reward Results. Punish Non-Performance

This is simple. The only thing that matters in a flexible work environment is results. Putting in late nights doesn’t matter, office politics don’t count, and face time is irrelevant. If you’re producing results and meeting expectations, things are great. If you’re not producing or you’re falling below expectations, there’s a problem. In a results-driven environment, there’s no place to hide. Non-performance is quickly noticed because you are only evaluated by results.

Follow this simple rule: Those that achieve the most get rewarded the most and those that fail to produce, face some type of consequence. Be firm and make deadlines mean something. You can’t be a pushover. If someone misses a deadline, falls below expectations, or turns out a poor outcome, there must be consequences. What are they in your organization?

People who aren’t good at their jobs run from accountability—they don’t want to be found out! But great employees love being held accountable. It sets clear expectations and helps everyone focus on results rather than face time, office politics, or long hours. Accountability creates individual responsibility and the process of making and keeping commitments builds trust (which is absolutely vital in virtual teams). Accountability is important in any workplace, but it’s absolutely vital in a flexible work environment.

Are people held accountable in your flexible work environment?


About the author: Ashley Acker, Ph.D. is a workplace renegade, ROWE enthusiast, and coach who helps small business owners boost team performance and productivity, increase flexibility, cut costs, and maximize profits by redesigning work. You can learn more about Ashley and start pushing the boundaries of how, when, and where you work by visiting the WorkStyle Design site.

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