Working from home : Some people love it, some people hate it. No matter how you feel about it, the reality is that COVID has accelerated a change that was already happening. With globalisation, pressure on time management and increased technology, remote working is a trend that was already gaining momentum everywhere.  And now we see that home working actually works! So remote working is here to stay. This means that managing virtual teams will be the new normality, but with accountability.

Key differences that impact our accountability conversations !


📸 Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

So how do you hold your team member accountable in a virtual environment ? A topic that is even more important when managing virtual teams during a crisis or recession.

So two key differences between a virtual and face to face environment impact the way we need to think about having an accountability conversation.

1 — In a virtual environment, there are no unplanned, informal moments.

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An obvious but often forgotten consequence of remote working is that we miss the many moments during the day that we have informal, casual contact with our colleagues. The moments when you leave a meeting together and walk back to your desk. And when you meet each other at the coffee machine, when you see each other in the lift.

Those moments are moments when you straighten out little cracks in your relationship. With a kind word, a pat on the shoulder, a joke, you nourish your relationship and establish trust between you and your team members.

2 — In a virtual environment, out of sight feels like out of mind.

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No matter how many hours of virtual phone meetings you have had with a team member during the day. But the fact is that you have not physically seen each other in the office.

On top of that, we completely miss out on the non-verbal communication. And therefore, even if you are on the phone the whole day, your team members will feel like you have communicated less. So, in a virtual world, trust and communication do not function the same way. What does that mean for the manager who leads his team remote?

Accountability starts with trust !

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When you have an accountability conversation in a virtual world, you need to ensure more explicitly that you keep the trust between you and your team member. Without trust, an accountability conversation becomes a hostile conversation.

And when a person feels threatened, they go into protection or flight mode. And there will be no room for any constructive conversation

Trust your gut feeling !

As there are no unplanned, informal moments during the day, you need to listen to your gut feeling a lot more. Listen to your gut feeling and act upon it.

Not tomorrow or next week but in the moment. You need to pick up the phone or sent a chat because you will not meet this person in the corridor or at the coffee machine and check if your feeling is right.

Do not let undesired behaviour pass a first time !

Act in the moment when you notice an undesired behaviour. Pick-up the phone and check-in on the person immediately. Ask how the person is doing and listen to his answer. And mention what you have observed and ask, in a kind way, what is going on.

Have a supporting conversation about it. As there will not be an informal way to talk about it, you need to act in the moment !

Do not let undesired behavior pass a second time !

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When an undesired behaviour continues, have a planned accountability conversation. During this conversation give a few examples and show how that behaviour is becoming a pattern. Then explain what the impact of that behaviour has on you, the team and/ or the client.

To avoid the “out of sight out of mind” sensation, make performance a specific topic during the one on one meetings that you already have in place.

Agree to spend 10 minutes on the topic at the start of your regular one on one meetings. Invite the employee to share how he feels and encourage him/her to ask for help. Make the employee accountable for these conversations. Ask him/her to lead them and own them.

Give as much encouraging and positive feedback as possible. As a rule, give more positive and encouraging feedback than negative feedback. As you do not have any casual and informal moments together to balance the relationship, you need to balance it deliberately with positive feedback.

Accoutability is a gift !

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📸 Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

As a final note please remember that accountability, when applied humanely, is a gift.

When you take the time to give somebody immediate and constructive feedback, it pushes the person to stretch their development and perform better. As it is our nature to seek comfort and stay in our comfort zone, we often need somebody else to give us a little push to grow and change. 

#acccountability #performancemanagement #virtualteams #crisismanagement #leadership #leaderkeys #stayhome

Your international HR consultant !

Madelien worked in the financial services industry as a Human Resources Director for the EMEA region – Europe, Middle East & Africa – for 13 years. During this time, she served on several Regional Executive Committees and Management Boards. She designed and implemented leadership transformation programs across 35 counties and has extended, hands-on experience with large, multi-country mergers & acquisitions. In her strategic leadership roles, she managed vast international and remote teams.

She has specialised in conflict management in the US and started her career as an employment lawyer in the Netherlands. As a former prescriber of coaching and consulting services, she has a good understanding of why and when organisations and leaders seek support and how to be a valuable business partner.

Madelien is part of the international executive coaching firm PRAESTA and subscribes to its philosophy and deontology.

If you want to know more about how to start, guide and finish an accountability conversation or talk about performance management in a virtual world, please contact me directly at :

LEADERKEYS — Madelien PERRIER — Tél. +33 (0)7 86 09 89 66 — –