Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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This is something that got picked up by many media outlets, and I wanted to share it here as it discusses some important qualities of effective leadership.

Yahoo! Telecommuting: Productivity Expert Mary C. Kelly Defends Work-at-Home

DENVER, February 28, 2013 – As businesses debate anew the merits of telecommuting in the wake of the Yahoo! public relations controversy, Productivity Expert Mary C. Kelly, PhD, says the issue comes down to accountability and leadership.

“If managers and supervisors are doing their jobs by keeping their employees accountable, then telecommuting is a non-issue,” said Kelly, an economist and leadership coach who presents keynote speeches and training sessions for financial services companies, associations, and conferences.

“Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer should set the expectations, give managers the authority to take action for non-productive employees, and reward the people who are producing great results,” said Kelly, author of “360 Degrees of Leadership.”

“Telecommuting is cost-effective and remarkably efficient if key components of accountability, trust, and performance are in place,” said Kelly, an internationally acclaimed leadership expert and business communication expert.

“Telecommuting saves money for both employees and employers.  Employers don’t have to provide office space, phones, desks, or utilities for employees who work from home,” she said.

Employees don’t have to spend money on work clothes, lunches out, or waste time and gas driving to and from work.

It should be the perfect situation, but both sides have to work to make telecommuting profitable. 

Managers of telecommuters need to make sure that the work is completed, and that telecommuters are as much a part of the work team as those who physically show up.

Employees need to guard against the out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome.  There may be a perception that working from home involves long naps and extensive gym time, so employees have to work to reassure managers with meeting deadlines, delivering results, and effectively communicating.

“Employees have to understand that working from home seems like a great option, especially for those caring for another person, but it is still a job,” she said. “Part of doing a job well means being responsive to their supervisors or company requests for information (which was the catalyst for Yahoo) and fulfilling all requirements of that position.”

Telecommuting also means employees still need to show up for meetings, answer client questions, perform site visits, and be present any time the boss asks.

Canceling a telecommuting arrangement could cause other problems.

“Reneging on a promise to hire people as telecommuters by adopting a blanket policy seems unfair, especially if the employee spent thousands of dollars to buy office equipment, or turned down other job offers that offered telecommuting,” she said.

People who have not been doing their jobs should be counseled, put on improvement plans, or released,” she said. “Great workers will be wildly productive wherever they are.  Poor workers will not.”


  1. George B

    Enabling everyone in the organization to cooperatively contribute
    – versus empowering a select few to retain perceived control – is a challenge.

    Without the “working class” being physically present
    – there are fewer useful “mid-management” functions – in most cases.

    Without mid-management – workers can communicate directly with leadership…
    and the turmoil between ranks could negate the of (mis-)representation by unions.
    And – without unions – we cold have a different leadership model (or even US President).
    You can’t “UNION ORGANIZE” a functioning and efficient organization – profitably or politically.
    JMO 🙂

  2. Sheryl G

    You are absolutely right, Mary! Leadership must be on top of work assignments and productivity. With the proper workload and accountability, there should be no issues with work-at-home arrangements. The problem is the occasional bad apple that abuses the privilege of working from home. And as you stated, if a worker is not performing, whether in an office environment (yes, that happens too) or in home office, it is up to management to correct the issues.

  3. Andrew Szabo (The Marketing Chef)

    “If managers and supervisors are doing their jobs by keeping their employees accountable, then telecommuting is a non-issue,”
    You mailed this Mary! Excellent observations, insights and analysis!
    I too was very disturbed by Yahoo! CEO’s direction – in addition to your analysis, Marissa Mayer clearly doesn’t get GEN-Yers – who want to work how and when on their terms.
    This is a throwback to the 70’s command and control management.
    Yahoo! I believe will lose talent and make it difficult to acquire creative talent too.

  4. Mary Kelly

    Thanks for the comments! People generally believe this is a leadership issue, not a geographic issue.

    Love the dialogue!
    Warmly, Mary


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