It seems to me the conversation should be to:
- Define the objective.
- Share the vision.
- Set expectations.
- Ensure the team has the tools and training to reasonably expect them to deliver on results.
- Get consensus on a reasonable credible plan.
- Hold the team accountable.
- The creation of the credible plan should take human factors, decency, fairness, and work/life balance into consideration.
- The circumstances of the execution of the credible plan could require some extra hours or someone’s feelings getting hurt because of something like accountability revealing they didn’t do what they said they were going to do.
The whole conversation seems to start with employees and, sometimes, never gets around to the companies that employ them, leaders, or results. The only reason companies need employees is to get results. There is no doubt that some companies and leaders have got it wrong and continue to do so. But it’s dangerous to implement changes based on feelings without some experimentation to prove what will and won’t work. In the real world, the unintended consequences are currently being felt.
A recent Automotive News study concluded that increases in warranty and decreases in quality could be traced back to leadership failing to emphasize Program Management and Program Managers being left without a method of recovery from the negative impact on collaboration that remote work has had.
As an example of failing to balance the two maxims, above, I had a recent experience on a pre-launch program turnaround that seems to support their findings. The program was off the rails, there was no credible plan, and no two people agreed on the status of the program. Management was unaware of the trouble they were in because the red/yellow/green charts camouflaged the actual status. The office was almost always empty with everyone working remotely.
When I suggested we meet in the office once or twice a week to get aligned I met significant resistance. The team members preference and comfort were discussed to the exclusion of the program results. In fact, one young team member openly argued that his work was much more effective when he was isolated at home. Of course, it was! HIS work for his functional team was optimized at the expense of the program results. So, like always, the unintended consequences of a “feel good” wave of social media sentiments that lead to untested overcorrection without a balance that considered a credible plan and a path to results cost the company dearly. How long can the company afford to pay these employees for activity instead of accomplishment? Don’t they eventually need to sell something to generate the money to pay these employees?
Maybe people on the team could’ve learned from his incredible organization skills while he learned to focus on the program if they had sufficient face-to-face interaction Maybe he could’ve learned something about being a part of a team. Regardless, he chose (and was PERMITTED!) to sit in his bubble and missed the opportunity for two-way learning.
Of course, companies and leaders need to support their teams and consider employees feelings. And it seems clear, for indirect labor, we have demonstrated that some amount of remote work is possible and could even be healthy for a team, though it varies by industry. But failing to balance those things with a credible plan, accountability, and results creates a social club rather than an effective, results-oriented, successful team.