On the one hand, some say we have proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that our workforce is flexible and capable of working remotely. And with today’s technological advancements, we’re more connected than ever, even when we’re not together in person.
On the other hand, some say we have lived through one of the greatest real-time case studies for collaborative and successful work processes, and even though there were some positives from working from home, we have generally proven that company culture and connection are lost when we don’t interact face-to-face.
When it comes to working from home or not, each company and management team benefits from being crystal clear on its policy and why. Unfortunately, the why is often not clear or not communicated at all. For many employees, it can feel like the judge’s gavel drops, the decision is made, and there’s no option of appeal nor understanding as to how the mandate was arrived at.
Trust is central to this debate. Do you trust yourself and others to follow general rules and guidelines? Do you trust yourself and others not to abuse the trust and agency provided? Do you trust yourself and other leaders to set clear boundaries, objectives, and performance measures?
If a deep level of trust is not established, I’d argue that it doesn’t matter if you work at home, in the office, or in outer space; without a deep level of trust, you and your team will not operate, function, and perform at optimal levels. You’ll be spending too much time and energy sifting and working through the distrust that leads to gross assumptions, accusatory and defensive positioning, and general dissatisfaction and disengagement.
As you consider what policy best suits your firm, I’ll boil it down to two main points of discussion. Of course, there are many more, but I’ll keep to the KISS (“keep it simple, stupid”) principle for this writing.
Have you ever heard of or experienced a work environment that celebrated and was managed according to the “butts in seats” mentality? Yeah, outcomes-based leadership is not that!
When we use outcomes-based leadership, the onus is on leadership to set clear guidelines, success measures, deliverables, quality standards, and anything else needed to lead employees to the desired outcomes for the team, department, and company to succeed.
If you can achieve the desired outcome by working upside down at 3:00 am while eating an entire pizza (assuming you’re not disrupting day-to-day operations), why should it matter how you achieve the outcome? Could we strongly argue that achieving the desired result is most important?
This approach works for all work environments—remote, hybrid, and in-office.
No longer are we celebrated for missing recitals, family dinners, vacations, or any other personally important event because of vanity optics such as first in, last out of the office, not taking sick or vacation days, or having the most paid time off banked at the end of each year.
In this model, there’s trust that you and your team know what’s expected, learn how to perform to the level and standards you’ve all grown accustomed to, and have communicated those standards clearly—there’s no need for micro-managing.
It’s all fine and dandy to set standards for desired outcomes, and yet, what do we do if they aren’t met? This is where leaders need to step into possible discomfort and earn their paycheck—they need to hold people accountable to those standards, provide constructive feedback when shortcomings occur, and sometimes make termination decisions if a team member’s capabilities and abilities do not meet expectations and standards.
At its core, leaders and team members must confront difficult issues and demand that we all hold up our ends of the bargain. If I regularly contribute to the team late and not at the level and standards that are expected of me, and, in turn, this puts undue strain on the team, doesn’t it make sense that someone tells me? If not, I’d otherwise believe that my efforts are perfectly okay and that I don’t have room for improvement.
Accountability is where most leaders and companies fall short of their desired goals and outcomes. They do a great job of strategizing, creating one-, three-, and five-year plans, identifying revenue growth, discussing methods to streamline processes, and implementing new systems or technology to alleviate pressure points. Then, once that strategy is created, execution falls short. The number-one reason is that few people are held accountable for doing the work.
Summing It Up
Regardless of whether you decide in the future or have already decided what type of work environment you want, if you aren’t setting clear outcomes and holding people accountable, my guess is that you, your team, and your company are falling short of achieving your optimal results, and there’s some finger-pointing and general distrust.
My challenge to you is this: think about whether outcomes-based leadership works for your environment, and then ask your team and colleagues these two questions:
1. What do you understand the outcome or deliverable to be?
2. How can I best hold you accountable to ensure everything is completed on time, within scope, and by our standards?
A bonus question is this:
3. How will I know if you run into any challenges or issues?
I bet you’ll find the answers enlightening!