It takes deliberate work and communication to lead a virtual or hybrid team, but the good news is that the characteristics of truly accountable and effective teams stand strong. This consistency helps you more easily adjust to the context in which you’re leading.
Leading a hybrid world demands more of us as leaders.
“Management by walking around.” You’ve probably heard this phrase before—it refers to a style of management where a leader gets a feel for how work is progressing by walking around the office and checking in on people at random. Popularized, by Tom Peters, the idea is that the leader will get a better sense of how employees are doing by actually going out and talking to them than by sitting in her office, waiting for reports.
Of course, management by walking around is only possible when everyone is physically in the office or on the production floor. Since the pandemic began, many leaders, whether or not they consciously thought of themselves as using this strategy, have found that their typical habits and strategies have had to change. Leaders who previously led teams who were all in the same physical location may not even have realized how much they relied on the ability to drop by an employee’s office for a casual chat, take a colleague out to coffee, or build relationships through casual facetime.
Leading a virtual or hybrid team asks more of us as leaders. When you can’t rely on informal, unplanned conversations to just happen because you’re all in the same space, you must deliberately plan one-on-one check-ins with your direct reports, team-building exercises, and relationship-building conversations. As a leader of a remote team, you must be much more deliberate about the way you approach communicating with your employees. You have to step up in new ways.
WHY IT MATTERS:
Hybrid teams will be more common post-pandemic. Leaders will need to learn to adjust.
Many leaders were forced to figure out on the fly how to lead virtual teams when the pandemic began. Many leaders have learned valuable lessons about what works and what doesn’t in the virtual world. Hopefully, by now you’ve found a rhythm for team meetings and one-on-one check-ins that works for you and your employees.
Post-pandemic, some companies are signalling that they expect their employees to come back to the office. But we’re already seeing many companies adopt more flexible work-from-home policies, and because these policies are incredibly popular with employees, I expect the pressure to allow remote work will only grow. Many leaders who’ve already adjusted to leading all-remote teams will soon have to adjust again, in order to lead hybrid teams in which some people work from home and some are in the office, or all employees work from home some of the time.
Working with and leading a hybrid team is even more challenging than working with an all-remote team. Leaders will have to work hard to make teams feel cohesive and ensure that remote workers don’t feel left out. If you’ve ever had a meeting in which most participants are physically in a room together and a few people are on the phone or a video call, you know just how hard it can be to make everyone feel like they’re being heard.
There’s no way around it: the hybrid future of work is going to ask a lot of leaders.
As a leader, the success or failure depends on the ability of your team to drive results.
There’s one thing that won’t change in the future of work: as a leader, your individual success or failure depends on your team’s performance. It’s all about results. It really always has been, and it will continue to be the focus.
WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO:
Effective teams have a high degree of clarity and commitment – irregardless of if they are in person, hybrid, or totally virtual.
Here’s something else that won’t change as we shift to new ways of working: what makes an effective team. Highly effective teams have a high degree of clarity around what they need to accomplish, and a high degree of commitment to working together to accomplish their goals.
As a leader, it’s on you to ensure that your team has the clarity and commitment they need to succeed. Consider:
- Does your team know what the organization’s top strategic priorities are right now?
- Does everyone on the team understand how their top goals connect to the company’s priorities?
- Do your team members trust each other? Do they have each other’s backs?
- Does everyone on your team appear committed to working together?
In our ebook “How to Build an Accountable Team“, we offer a quick assement to aid this evaluation, as well as strategies to help you move forward depending on the outcome.
If your team is falling short on clarity, think about how you can refer back to the team’s and the organization’s top priorities during regular meetings. Employees are more engaged in their work when they understand how they are contributing to the big picture. Make sure your team has the clarity it needs.
Driving commitment will require extra effort on the part of leaders, especially in a hybrid work environment. While tougher to achieve, a high degree of commitment flows from clarity. Start by ensuring everyone on the team knows what they are accountable for delivering, individually and as a team. Be clear on your expectations. Then focus on addressing any interpersonal tension, identifying, and removing roadblocks, and strengthening the relationships on the team.
- Ebook: How to Build an Accountable Team
- Are you leading effectively in a virtual world?
- A Mid-Year Gut Check on Team Performance and Accountability
- Is your team fully behind you?
More Leadership Resources
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