In our previous article on how to establish trust in a virtual team, we talked about everything you need to know to understand how trust builds up within a team. And we also shared tips on how, as the owner of your firm, you can contribute and actually lead the process.
But now, how can you trust that, in the middle of everything that’s going on in the world, work is getting done? It’s all very well sending a small box of Quality Streets to your team members and having fun over who isn't going to eat the Strawberry and Orange Creams. (For non-UK readers of this article, Quality Streets are a very well known and loved brand of chocolates here in the UK.) But, how can you be sure that when push comes to shove, stuff is actually going to happen? And how can you be sure that you can rest easy that clients' work is going to be turned around promptly and to the right level of quality?
In this fragment of our Virtual Workshop “Leading a hybrid team”, that we ran with our Accountants Millionaires' Club members and other small accountancy firm owners, I go through 5 best practices that can help you trust that work is getting done.
5 tips that will help you trust work is getting done in your small accountancy firm
Use workflow management tools to update each other on progress with workload
Practice Management systems have been around for a while. But the new breed of cloud based practice management systems are vital if you are going to be able to run your practice wherever you and your team are based in the world. Here are just some of the options you could consider:
- Senta - Our members get 10% off Senta for their first 12 months of using it
- Xero Practice Manager (XPM)
- Accountancy Manager
- Monday.com - this is a generalist project and task-management the one we use in our team.
The key thing here is, whatever your final option is, you need to commit to using it. To feel in control with your workflow, it really helps to have a piece of technology in the background where everybody can see:
- what they need to do
- when the deadlines are, and
- what is expected of them.
This is a non-negotiable for a hybrid team. Otherwise, stuff will slip through the cracks.
Insist that team members update the task management system at the end of the day
Having a task management system or workflow management system is one thing. For it to be more use to you than a chocolate teapot, your team need to update it regularly. And that means as work is ticked off AND at the end of the working day. Updating the practice management system at the end of the day has to be a non-negotiable (for you included!). Otherwise, you are just not in control. This means your team (and you) need to see it as part of their role to update the Practice Management System daily. And, ultimately, it is part of the firm's culture that keeping the practice management system updated daily is 'just what we do in our firm'.
To help establish this daily habit, here are some tips:
- Write it into your employee's job description
- Make sure new employees are given in their first week, full training on how to use the Practice Management System and what is expected of them
- Ask each employee to send you an email (or put on your firm's chat channel) that they have updated the Practice Management System at the end of the day. (And if they don't follow up with a phone call to them...)
- Set a KPI for the system to be updated daily
- In your weekly operational meetings look at anything which is getting behind.
Set up dashboards and reports
It is not only about choosing the right practice management system and keeping it up to date, but also about setting up the appropriate dashboards and reports that will help you stay on top of what’s going on. Status dashboards and reports will help you get early warnings when problems are arising. Of course, setting them up as clear and automated as possible isn’t a quick job, but it pays off in the short- and medium-term.
Remind yourself that it is about deliverables and outcomes
Up until COVID-19 sent most office workers into their home office, office culture was mostly built about presenteesim. I.e. people need to be working for a certain amount of hours each day on order to be justifying their existence. With a presenteeism mindset, if a staff member is at their desk for 10 hours, they must be working hard. The reality is that being at your desk for a certain number of hours is no guarantee that someone is working hard, or focused, or being productive. Therefore, if you want to have a truly productive workforce, you need to build a culture that's deliverables and outcomes rather than time at the desk.
A good way to give yourself the reassurance that work is getting done is to get your team to do a personal update in your daily operational huddles. These are great questions to get them to answer in the daily huddle:
- What am I happy, grateful or proud about?
- What do I want to achieve today?
- Do I need specific help to achieve this?
You can also get your team to do a weekly update at the beginning or end of the week as to where they are with their workload, and the help they need. Download our free weekly work report template for team members to fill in each week to keep you updated on their progress and workload.
Run daily, weekly and monthly Rhythm Meetings
Daily operational huddles meetings are really important for you to connect with your team and the operations. A daily huddle doesn’t need to have complicated logistics around it. Just pick a time that works for you and your team. Then if any team member is attending the meeting virtually, make sure they put their cameras on. In the daily huddle, everyone on the team gets a minute to give an update. Click here to download the agenda for a daily operational huddle (email required)
The next type of Rhythm Meeting you need to is the weekly operational meeting. Unlike normal operational meetings, this meeting shouldn't be about updates but should be about management by exception. In order for this to happen, your team needs to send through an update and make sure the task management system is fully updated. This update should include:
- What is progressing well?
- Where are they stuck or delayed? And what is the root cause of the delays?
- Where are the bottlenecks occurring?
With these updates sent in advance, you can then use the operational meeting to:
- Look ahead and reprioritise or reallocate the workload if required
- Brainstorm with the team to resolve bottlenecks or delays or why stuff isn't working as intended
- Do a deep dive into a process in order to improve its efficiency
Of course there are going to be times when you are discussing why something hasn't worked. If you want to build and maintain psychological safety within your team, do not make the easy mistake of pointing the finger and blaming your team members. Instead, take the opportunity to have everybody work as a team to correct whatever isn’t working.
Finally, the monthly meeting is far more of a leadership strategic-type conversation.
If you are not sure how to start running more effective meetings, you can get our Rhythm Meeting Agendas here. They can help you get back in control of your workflow whilst making the best out of your meeting time.
Showing you trust in your team’s work will help you build trust within your virtual team.
As you have probably realised by now, establishing trust within your team and trusting that work is getting done in your small accountancy firm go hand in hand.
Setting the right systems, the technology, the channels and the times for your staff to communicate with you and with each other will help you, of course, stay on top of your workload. Not just that but help create the structure and infrastructure within your firm so that there is a significant social time for trust to grow, regardless of where in the world your team is working.