Dr. Sandy Jones, CSU Global’s Vice President of Strategic Engagement, shares how she works to motivate her teams – especially in today’s virtual environment

CSU Global is a fully online university, and most of our faculty and staff are remote. Therefore, I am often asked: How do you know everyone is working hard? The simple answer is that I don’t need to.

Of course, tools that track time on task and productivity exist, but if we aren’t careful, we are measuring “presenteeism” – a larger productivity killer than absenteeism. Instead, I lean on three proven metrics and focuses that inspire teams to perform at their highest level, whether in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid environment. 

Everyone Needs (at Least) One Number

Each employee should have at minimum one (but ideally three to five) numerical metrics they are striving towards, with their progress documented weekly. It sounds straightforward – and it is – but it isn’t easy. Identifying the appropriate accountability structure for a team can take weeks, and we constantly question if we are tracking the right goals and holding the right employees accountable to the right performance metrics. Some metrics are completion-oriented, while others may be more complex goals to increase efficiency, drive outcomes, or progress towards the implementation of a new vertical.

Maintain an Intense Focus on Essential Projects

Each leader should select three to five projects that will move their organization (not just their department) forward – and these must be completed within 90 days. During our weekly touchbases, leaders report on the progress of these projects, which allows them not to lose sight of what matters – even with many small tasks that need to be completed in a given week. These are non-negotiable projects with non-negotiable deadlines, so project scaling and adequate resourcing are vital to their success. 

Acknowledge Values-Based Behaviors

Just as important as select projects and metrics are the cross-team relationships, actions, and synergy. If we track and reward only individual metrics and projects, it’s easy to lose sight of the collaborations, orientations, and behaviors that drive collective performance. For this reason, we send team members public or private virtual high-fives that acknowledge when we are operating within a CSU Global value. At our quarterly organization-wide meetings, we spotlight employees who recently achieved a result by demonstrating a behavior or accomplishment that was in alignment with one of our values. This small – but impactful – recognition demonstrates that how employees complete their responsibilities matters to senior leadership as much as how much is accomplished. Additionally, these spotlights help us reinforce our values, which is an activity that high-performing organizations simply can’t do enough of.


These three strategies for managing healthy and productive teams are effective because they remove a lot of the subjectivity, uncertainty, and favoritism from the workplace and make it clear to each employee and those around them how they are doing at their jobs. While managers love to hire self-motivated employees, if the environment doesn’t track, measure or celebrate performance, these types of employees will flee to somewhere that does.

It’s time for senior leaders across all organizations to hold themselves and their teams accountable for performance-driven metrics and foster psychologically safe workplaces, while rewarding values-based behaviors – which certainly does not require looking over anyone’s shoulder at an office cubicle.