Leading in a Hybrid World

Understandably, most – if not all our conversations with clients – are now featuring an element of supporting them with how to move forward with a hybrid working model.

For some organisations this has been the norm for years and they are looking at the rest of the world thinking ‘thank goodness you are getting with the programme!’  Others are facing another significant culture change to a ‘hybrid working’ model and a formal policy after adapting from all ‘in person’ working, to all ‘virtual’ working during the height of the pandemic. They are now facing the important question of how do we implement this and help our people make this work, on the ground, in all areas of our business?

Although it does not always feel like it, the creation of the model and the policy is often the easy part. The implementation is the challenging bit as that involves influencing others and leading them through the transition. Everyone who is going through the transition has their own individual thoughts, beliefs and values which will inform how they react to the change and how quickly they adapt to their new world.

We know that when organisations are going through a momentous change (such as the move to hybrid working), the biggest risks are lower motivation, a negative impact on productivity, becoming disengaged with the organisation and a further impact on their wellbeing.

All of these can lead to higher sickness, attrition and will in time, impact the ability to attract talent.  Hybrid working will be a key assessment criteria for employees when considering joining an organisation, so making it a success needs to be at the top of any people strategy.

In order for successful implementation, it is critical that leaders can support their people through this transition, whilst role modelling effective hybrid working practices themselves.  There are many practical and physical considerations but most importantly, it involves leaders changing the way they behave as a leader. 

Mangers need to develop their leadership skills and behaviours in 4 key areas: 

1. Collaboration

Collaboration, whether working in teams, or on an individual basis is based on a foundation of trust and rapport. To further develop this, leaders need to build deeper relationships with their people by knowing and understanding themselves and others. On a practical level there is re-contracting with their teams on how they are going to collaborate, when do they need to be together in human form and when can they be remote? How are we going to run our hybrid meetings? How do we manage our time and energy? What is our team charter on this? What are we all signing up too collectively?

2. Communication

We all know that communicating well with people through change can be the difference between it going well or being a disaster. However, there are challenges in the hybrid space, especially if the practical aspects of technology are a barrier.  How as a leader do you ensure that you are communicating the same message to everyone, at the same time? How can you avoid favouring those who you see more frequently and therefore have more opportunities to chat with informally? How can you avoid proximity bias? How do you communicate from a place of curiosity rather than judgement?   How do you create an environment for open and free flowing feedback?

3. Connection

As humans we know connection is fundamentally important. But when teams aren’t all physically together how do they create and maintain a sense of belonging with each other and the organisation? How do they balance formal and informal connections and do this more consciously? How do they onboard new team members and help them feel engaged and part of the team? How do leaders make sure that we are managing their wellbeing? And how do they support their people with this? How can they REALLY know how their people are? All of this involves leaders becoming more empathetic in their approach.

4. Coaching as a leadership style.

Moving to a hybrid working model needs our leaders to be even more adaptive in their leadership style. When leaders are not present with their people there is a risk, they move to a more directive and instructional style of leadership and micromanage as they are not able to see what they are doing so easily. So, how can we enable our leaders to be more outcomes focused? How can we enable them to use a coaching style of leadership to empower and enable their people? Leaders need to develop their skills in questioning and listening and more consciously use coaching as a leadership style.

Hybrid working is here to stay and the implementation of this new world of work is going to take time. There are clearly huge benefits to working in this way, but with that also comes huge challenges to overcome. To best equip managers and leaders throughout the organisation to effectively lead their teams through this transition, it is important to help them understand the challenges, give them clear policy to work within and then develop their skills and toolkit to implement it for the benefit of the organisation and its people.

If you want to find out more about how Connor can help developing your managers lead more effectively in a hybrid working environment, visit our Manager Development page or contact us on 01491 414010.

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