Ep #67: How to Hold Remote Team Members Accountable

 In Podcast

Is it your belief that you can’t manage people’s performance and hold them accountable unless they’re sitting in the same building as you? Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s how to hold remote team members accountable and ensure that performance has nothing to do with their location.

What you’ll find in this episode:

  1. Kris’ story about managing remotely.
  2. Kris’s blueprint – the five steps to managing a remote team. (Note: this applies whether they’re in the building or not.)
  3. If you’ve switched to a remote culture, you should be doing lots more communicating.
  4. “You aren’t paying people for time. You’re paying people for results.”
  5. How you hold people accountable has nothing to do with where they sit, and it has everything to do with your leadership philosophy.
  6. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO – why she had a leadership problem.

Featured on the Show and Other Notes:

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Podcast Transcript

Hey, I’m Kris Plachy, host of The Lead Your Team Podcast. Running a million-dollar business is not easy, and whether you’re just getting started with building your team or you’ve been at this for a while, I’m going to bring you honest, specific, and clear practices you can use right now, today, to improve how well you lead your team. Let’s go ahead and get started. Hey, how you doing? How’s it going?

Welcome. It’s another week. Here we go. I want to talk to you today about managing people who are not in your building. For those of you who already manage employees virtually, you don’t see them physically in your building, this hopefully will just give you some additional things to think about, but if you’re finding yourself as a woman who runs a business, and now people aren’t coming to work or haven’t been coming to work, I really want you to listen in to me, okay, because everything is different now, and we’re already starting to see pretty large movements.

Just in the last week, Twitter announced globally they will no longer require employees to come to work, to building. Salesforce just announced that they will no longer require employees to come to a building at least through the end of this year, and I knew when this all began this landscape would change. I just knew in my gut because as soon as people can work from home and they can work from home, they can get their work done and prove that they can work from home, I don’t blame them. Like why should I have to drive an hour or 45 minutes? Why should I have to be there when I can be just as effective here?

The same is going to be true for meetings and traveling. The expectation that people can get their work done remotely and be very present with Zoom and other resources available to us is now going to become the norm. Now, the caveat, of course, is if you run a business that requires people to be in the building, right? I have clients who have shops. They have to have employees in the building.

That’s not a remote job. There’s a lot of businesses that require people to be in the building and work certain hours, and that’s going to not change. None of that’s going to be any different, but the majority of people who have jobs who sit in a building somewhere, in a cube, you need to be ready because this is going to be an expectation, all right? One of the things that I have been hearing repeatedly, and I have heard this for years, is that it’s hard to manage people remotely. “I’m having a really hard time holding people accountable remotely,” and so I want to tell you a little bit about my story, and incidentally, I also want to tell you I’ve made two videos available that I offered in my Leading Through Crazy Times course that I did a couple months ago, and the two videos are all about how to manage virtual employees and how to hold them accountable, and all you have to do is click the link in the podcast notes to get to access that course.

It’s two videos. They’re about 10 minutes each. It will be a lot of what I’m talking about here, but probably a little more detail. If you’re finding yourself right now in that position, in that predicament, of really not feeling like you’re able to hold people accountable to the level that you want, please watch the videos in addition to what I’m about to tell you today. First of all, I want to tell you my story, because I was always a manager who had employees right in my building, and I did manage multiple sites, but I was always sort of inclined to go to the sites to make that kind of face-to-face contact and be with people.

Then, when I started my coaching team inside the company that I was working for, we were all over the country, and so that was my real first foray into leading and managing a team remotely. I loved it, so I want to give you my thoughts about it because I loved it and I never looked back. I’ve always just then from now on, wanted to have a virtual team. It doesn’t mean I don’t connect with them and I don’t have, I think pretty great relationships with the people I work with, but I don’t have any interest in having a building with people who come into it. The reason I love managing people virtually is it’s all of the parts that I love about managing and leading a team without all of the parts that I don’t love. The parts that I love are I love to set expectations and empower people to get work done, and coach them, and have conversations about their performance, and their work, and their benchmarks, and timelines, and really connect with them around the work that they do.

That is very simple to me to put together virtually with people, and we’ll talk about that. What I didn’t love about having people be in the building was the constant interruption, was the person standing at my door, wanting to talk to me. It was the distraction, just the energetic distraction of having people around me. I already tend to be a little ADD, for lack of a better word. I have a hard time focusing if there’s a lot going on around me, so if I’m at home and I’m focused, it’s where I could get most of my work done.

What it does for me when I have virtual employees is it allows us to do the work of the business without all of the other riff-raff that comes with it, and yet, I can speak very honestly and from great experience, I had great connections with everybody that I’ve managed virtually, and in my case now, some of these people I’ve never met in person, but I work with them all of the time through the work that we get done together, and so I think you have to really, first as a woman, running a business, if you’re moving into this remote culture, you have to first look at all of the thoughts you have about managing people remotely, and we have to pick those apart, one by one, because they aren’t true. You can have very high-performing, talented people work for you and get results. I know this, and I’m not only just speaking anecdotally about myself. I can speak to this across the board with other clients. I’ve worked with other people I know.

This is very, very doable. The thought that you can’t manage people’s performance and hold people accountable is a lie. It’s just a new skill set that you have to develop, and I would actually argue that performance has nothing to do with location, and the opposite is true. I actually believe that when people are in the building and you look around and you see them “Working,” you get placated. You think, “Oh, good. I have people here working.”

You don’t know what they’re doing. Just because they’re in the building doesn’t mean they’re productive. It doesn’t mean they’re producing, right, and so the blueprint I teach all of my clients is the five steps to managing a team. It’s basic entrepreneurial management, five steps. Those apply whether someone’s sitting literally next to you or someone is in 5,000 miles away from you.

That’s why I love my blueprint and what I teach – because it’s so basic. Once you know it, you can implement it for four employees or 400, okay? First of all, just really, your mindset is you have to evaluate the thoughts you believe about managing people when they’re in the building versus when they’re sitting at home. Okay. Now, having said that, I’m going to go through very quickly the elements you have to have in place in order to have a successfully managed, held accountable remote team.

You have to have very clear values that are communicated, and revisited, and managed to. You have to have very clear performance expectations. We have to know even what the behaviors are that you expect of people who work for you all the time. You have to have very clearly defined roles in your business. Everybody should have a very clear role, and out of those roles, should be very clear key performance indicators, measures that assess the productivity of the role.

Then, we have to have goals for the people in the roles. That’s a very high-level overview, okay, but I want to … The purpose of this podcast, I really wanted to like get in your brain, because if you are struggling with this, you don’t need to be, first of all. It is a process that you have to put in place. Like I said, right?

It’s like this blueprint. It is the five steps. You have to go through them. Nobody gets away with not doing that. If you miss a step, if you miss a piece, you’ll feel it in performance, I promise you. As soon as I talk to a new client, I know exactly what the gap is, whether it’s one of the steps or all five.

I know exactly what it is. Then, we just fix that. It doesn’t matter what your industry is, it doesn’t matter how many employees you have, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business, it doesn’t matter what country you work in, it’s the same. You have to have clearly defined values that you lead and manage to. You have to have clearly defined performance expectations that drive the behaviors you expect to people who work for you. You have to have very clear roles, defined roles in your business.

You have to have very clear measures that assess the performance and productivity of the role, and then you have to have very clear goals for every single person in your company. You get those in place, and then the rest is details. When someone works from home … These are some of the things I talk about in the class that I’m offering you. When you work from home, you’ve got to think about, “What’s their environment like?”, “What kind of support do they need?”, “What kind of connection do you want to have with people?”

I think you should overcommunicate. If you have just moved the business to a remote environment, there should be way more communicating than ever. Not long, not drawn out, but lots of it. “What are the simulated environments you want to create for people if they’re used to being in a building”? because you’re having your own challenges, so are employees. Of course, the circumstances right now are just plain weird, right? You’ve got employees who are home, but then you’ve also got kids, so people really are just trying to make this work.

When you have a performance-driven culture that focuses on results, you get out of the weeds of needing to worry about how many hours somebody has been in your building. You aren’t paying people for time. You are paying people for results. The sooner you’re clear about that, and really believe me, the easier your life will get as a leader, I promise, but if you’re hung up on where they sit, it’s because you think that creates some kind of control for you, and it doesn’t, because we know that before this whole pandemic and people were going to work, 70% of the U.S. workforce was disengaged. That means people were showing up and getting paid to produce at substandard levels, and that’s when they were in the building.

How you hold people accountable has nothing to do with where they sit, and it has everything to do with your leadership philosophy. I’ll say one more thing about this. Years ago, there was a new CEO for Yahoo, [Melissa 00:13:46] Mayer. She came in and they had, I don’t even know how many thousands of their workers worked remotely in Silicon Valley, and they had a terrible performance issue, and so she decided everybody should work back in the building. I remember at the time, I actually wrote an article about this because I was so incensed about it because it was so silly.

Like you don’t have a … It’s not the people working from home is a problem. Now, all you’ve done is further clogged the fricking freeways in Silicon Valley and made everybody miserable and hate you when what you really had was a management problem. If you had the majority of your workforce working from home not performing, you have a leadership problem. That’s just details.

The employees working or not has everything to do with how well they’re being led and managed and coached, so that, I’ll never forget that, so be careful right now. This is a slippery slope for you if this is your business, because have an opportunity to improve culture, to help people do better, but you have to do this part, right? I make this blueprint sound pretty simple because I know that it is. There is a lot of work for you to do in just those five steps. That’s what I do with every client every day of my life because I know you get that dialed, you can deal with any issue at any time with anyone anywhere, and you are a super-leader.

Like you have owned it, but you have to have the framework, and it has nothing to do with where they sit. This is a little bit of a sermon today. Click on the link if you want the course, and don’t worry about it. Put some stuff into place that will help you. I know it will be a game-changer. Lean into the change.

Don’t resist it. It’s here. Be the business and the woman that people want to work for. All right. Have an awesome, amazing, powerful day. Go get it.

Hey there, gorgeous. Are you ready to take everything I teach you in this podcast and put it to work in your business, and really learn how to master leading your team? If so, I’d love to have you as a client in the Founder’s Lab. To learn more about how we can work together, head on over to Krisplachy.com/join. There, you’ll see everything you need to know about the Founder’s Lab and how to get started. See you there.

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