Holding People Accountable in a Remote World: A Recognition & Resiliency Perspective

Video thumbnail for a video titled "your leadership questions answered: recognition in a virtual world" by Sarah McVanelHow do I hold people accountable?

I’ve never been asked this question as much as I have since COVID began. It can have different forms. How do I hold people accountable when we’re all remote? Is it fair to hold someone accountable when they might be struggling? How do I hold someone accountable who has a history of underperformance when we can’t even have these tough conversations in the same room?

I get it. I find it tough to have these conversations anytime, let alone when there are added complications of distance, distractions and disappointment.

But I do. I manage a remote team. The folks I work with now I’d run through fire for (okay, that’s a throwback reference to my high school drama days; I’d drop everything to be there for them and support them). The road to get here has been riddled with underperformance that I had to manage in the remote work, when I or they were stressed, when deadlines loomed (or were missed), when clients were being underserved (or not to our high standards here at Greatness Magnified), or just pain old when I was tired of excuses.

That said, I always start from a place of believing and seeing the other person’s greatness and believing that it’s present. Yes, it can lead to disappointment when I’m proven wrong, but when we have to part ways, at least I always know there’s nothing more I could have done to support him or her. Plus, it may have been good enough then but isn’t as I or the business or our clients evolve, and that is okay, as the only way to go from good to great is to be surrounded by people who have the potential and desire to strive for greatness with you.

The Connection Between Accountability and Motivation

This article was inspired by a speaker friend Mark Black’s IG post and being tagged by another rockstar speaker Michelle Cederberg (see their post link here). I’m curious as to what you think of this quote?

screenshot from Instagram of a post that reads "when there is no consequence for poor work ethic, and no reward for good work ethic, there is no motivation."

Here was my response:

A major question I am getting lately is how do we hold people accountable in our #remote #covıd world of work? What worries me is that it stems from a belief: if I recognize somebody, they will become complacent and think that there’s nothing to improve.

Here’s how I’d like to flip it. If they don’t know what is working, how will they know what to continue? Appreciation breeds clarity and motivation. How will somebody ever be motivated if they don’t know what is working, where they fit, that what they do matters, and how they fit into the bigger picture? If this is very clear, and there is a lack of performance, with empathy, understanding, curiosity and compassion, our first job is to assist them to be successful. Not to be the judge and jury of their worthiness. If the context and the circumstance are in any way impacting performance, that needs to be understood and taken into account. Not to let people off the hook, but to look for the area where the gaps need to be filled.

All too often we point to the person who is the problem rather than looking at what’s around the individual that doesn’t set them up for success.

The foundation is appreciation. The finesse is feedback.

What do you think? Do you agree?

Here are a few more resources on accountability and having authentic conversations:

PS. Did you know…Sarah is on TikTok? Catch her 60-second spoofs on employee experiences gone wrong.

Sarah McVanel on TikTok

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve