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6 Best Practices for Hybrid Leadership

Written for and published by Training Industry.

Hybrid work is here to stay. According to Zoom’s recent whitepaper, “How to Adapt Company Culture for Remote Work,” it’s impossible to go “back to normal”. The dynamics of collaboration have forever changed, with 72% of organizations operating via a hybrid working model, according to global averages from the Steelcase Global Report, 2021. Given this fundamental workplace shift, building connections on dispersed teams is increasingly essential for business success.

Zoom’s now ubiquitous videoconferencing platform suggests we must remember that being in the same building does not ensure employee connection. The key to preventing isolation is to develop a thriving company culture. The same Zoom whitepaper reports that, “Culture is not about perks, proximity of team members, or the processes you have in place, it’s about inclusivity.”

In order to seamlessly and successfully shift to a hybrid work model, there are a number of elements that need to be considered including new models and methods for communication, accountability, structures and connection to create alignment for all employees. Solidifying hybrid workplace cultural alignment will serve to stabilize company results, ensure sustained project outcomes, and decrease risk of attrition, costly inefficiencies and a lack of cross-functional accountabilities.

So how does one usher in these new models and methods with ease and efficiency for continuous connection and cultural alignment?

There are six key elements you need to successfully lead a hybrid team: communication, interactive feedback, accountability, structures, emotional intelligence (EQ) and cohesion. Mastering these six key indicators, from both a leader/manager and team standpoint will comprehensively support any organization’s hybrid working model.

First, let’s establish what we mean by “hybrid.” What does a hybrid team, hybrid workplace or hybrid working model look like? And, what are the defining characteristics of “hybrid”? Hybrid is a flexible work model that supports a blend of in-office, remote and on-the-go workers. The newly adopted and widely popular model offers employees the autonomy to choose to work wherever and however they are most productive.

With 70% of employees preferring a hybrid working model, this adaptive style of work supports both employee preferences and autonomy — providing professionals with freedom, but also a heightened degree of responsibility to choose when, where and how they work.

This new, multimodal and multidimensional, elevated way of working introduces a number of variables that didn’t exist before (when only working in person).

Building connections on dispersed teams is increasingly essential for business success.

Accounting for these new additional factors is essential to successfully leading a hybrid team. This is where the six key indicators you need to lead a hybrid team come into play.

  1. On any team, especially a hybrid one, communication is the lifeblood; dependable communication between team members must be clear and open. This reduces misunderstandings, minimizes work delays and enhances overall productivity.
    Teams that hold each other respectfully accountable drive innovation, trust and productivity within organizations. Accountability involves having developed the skills and motivation to get things done on time and up to expectation. Set your hybrid team up for success by encouraging a culture of accountability tailored to your organization and goals.
  2. Ongoing, interactive feedback between team members is a basic, essential requirement for improving team effectiveness and performance. What’s happened in the past and expected future results provide essential information to make important decisions and improve performance. The three-step, two-way process: feedback,  feedforward and follow up form the interactive triad for creating a supportive and psychologically safe work environment that is less focused on individual tasks and more focused on overall team contributions and well-being. A feedback-oriented workplace culture promotes team alignment while simultaneously decreasing personal and company blind spots — a win-win!
  3. Unifying and streamlining work processes and related behavioral norms (i.e., structures) builds the foundation for efficient and successful teams. Such processes and norms are ever more essential when working on a hybrid team. In a hybrid work environment, this may include developing expectations and processes for meetings, email norms, and decision-making best practices. Efficient techniques that address common problems within the structures of a team sets everyone up for success.
  4. Identifying and managing your emotions while navigating the emotions of others is a critical skill, yet rarely taught or discussed. Nevertheless, such emotional intelligence is key to successfully leading a hybrid team. The five ingredients of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, leader assertiveness and social skills/team skills are required to foster psychological safety among team members, leading to greater connection and collaboration — which are critical when working on or leading a hybrid team.
  5. Cohesive teams are more successful and more productive. A culture of cohesion increases satisfaction, engagement, and collaboration and positively impacts project outcomes, client satisfaction, team engagement and collaboration, resulting in increased success and productivity.

The key elements of a cohesive hybrid team are three-fold: trust, the the level of support one gets from their team and an openness to different opinions. Effectively and efficiently inspiring, guiding, and maintaining momentum allows team members to collectively reach their full potential.

Successfully leading a hybrid team relies on building connections with your dispersed teams. This involves modeling what “good” leadership looks like, shifting your thought process (as a manager) away from observation-only mode, acknowledging that change is happening, and aligning to the six key indicators you need to lead a hybrid team.

Seeing that “the majority of organizations will take a hybrid approach to work, in which employees work from both home and the office, hybrid is the way of the future. Follow the best practices outlined above to lead a successful hybrid team.