In recent years, it has become clear that remote or hybrid work is the trend of the future, but effective remote leadership remains a pain point for many organizations. Due to the unique dynamics and challenges of remote or hybrid workplaces compared to traditional office environments, leadership skills must be adjusted to this specific work environment. Leaders should consider collaboration barriers, reliance on digital platforms, and minimal face-to-face supervision or interaction when managing their collaborators.
In this blog post, we will explore leadership strategies in remote and hybrid environments.
First, let's understand what hybrid work is. Hybrid work is a flexible work model that adapts to different ways of working. Hybrid work brings together employees who work in the office, remotely, and while traveling.
What are the new challenges that hybrid work poses for leaders?
- Remote employees may be overlooked in meetings. If half of the team is in the conference room and the other half is participating remotely, remote workers are less likely to be consulted or heard.
- Promotions and assignments tend to favor on-site team members. Those in positions of power tend to give opportunities to people they know. If you work remotely, you are less likely to receive similar career support due to the lack of face-to-face time.
- Remote workers can feel disconnected and disheartened. In addition to the lack of tasks, remote workers also receive less feedback and positive reinforcement from their leaders.
- Maintaining connections can be difficult. This is not inevitable or guaranteed. However, it is well-known that we are on the brink of a connection crisis, which could stifle company culture. In hybrid and virtual environments, extra effort and willingness are needed to foster connections.
In the new hybrid work world, effective leadership requires skills beyond those needed for traditional team leadership. Strategies required for hybrid leaders include:
1.Recognizing the new changes in leadership style in a hybrid work environment.
Leaders should start by acknowledging the changes and assuring people that their choices, whether working on-site, remotely, or both, will not limit their career development and their contributions will be valued. Culture is now more important than ever. The main challenge for remote and hybrid work teams is not productivity, but employee engagement and organizational culture.Therefore, leaders should strive to create a psychologically safe work environment where people can candidly discuss their uncertainties and setbacks, share reservations and concerns with others. Organizations should ensure team members have the skills they need to speak candidly with each other from anywhere. Developing a coaching culture requires truth and courage, but it will help foster more innovative solutions, boost morale, and increase productivity. (This is also the foundation for building a strong organizational culture in your organization.)
When people come together to collaborate or solve problems, the collective wisdom they form is something that individuals cannot achieve. While technologies like surveys and voting are often touted as ways to promote collective intelligence in a hybrid work environment, they fall short when you need a fair answer to urgent, mission-critical issues.
Using a panoramic video conferencing system like Kandao Meeting Pro can help you leverage the collective intelligence of your hybrid workforce. By creating a dialogue, you can raise open-ended questions about culture, innovation, employee feedback, and more. Participants can share their answers equally and objectively evaluate each other's responses and ideas.
2.Promote tolerance and mutual understanding among members of mixed teams.
Make an effort to maintain or establish inclusive leadership practices, such as group discussions or team meetings. In 2020, when many people were working from home, many experienced the challenges of contributing in virtual meetings, while those who were already remote workers were familiar with this.
In today's hybrid work environment, remember these lessons learned and ensure that meetings remain inclusive. Without intentional and clearly defined processes, those returning to in-person work may easily fall back into old habits and inadvertently exclude or overlook colleagues working remotely.
Take the time to help your new hybrid workforce develop a set of common team norms and expectations to create a sense of identity. Everyone should understand the team's purpose and goals, workflows, meeting frequency, and decision-making processes. Consider the following questions:
- Which days will individuals who plan to work part-time remotely and in-person be in the office?
- How can team meetings effectively accommodate the needs and contributions of both in-person and remote participants?
- How will communication tools and technology platforms be used to support the team's goals and outputs?
By addressing these issues, leaders and employers can promote tolerance and connectivity among members of the hybrid workforce. Agreed-upon use of technology tools and platforms can help remote individuals feel less disconnected and ensure that everyone's needs are met. This is one of the recommended best practices for managing virtual teams and meetings, but it is equally applicable in the context of a hybrid workforce. Effective team leaders will ensure that all members are fully engaged, regardless of their location.
3.Driving Performance Without Close Supervision
If some or all employees are remote workers, driving performance without virtual micro-management requires two things: clear expectation setting and trust. Once employees are clear on their roles and how performance will be measured, and have the skills and tools needed to meet goals, let them do their job. This doesn't mean you shouldn't provide regular status updates or communicate with them. You still need to do that, but you also need to trust that they will do what they say they will do.
Take a look around you. Do you see a strong direction? In other words, do team members agree on the overall goals and strategies of the group? Ask yourself if your team is working in coordination – are members with different tasks and roles coordinating their work? Finally, is there a commitment or shared responsibility for the team? When a team has a strong commitment, they feel responsible for the team's and business's success and well-being. There is a high degree of trust and psychological safety.
With clear guidance and support, there should be appropriate processes in place to address issues if they are not performing well.
4.Focusing on Boundary Spanning – Within Hybrid Teams and Across the Organization's Hybrid Workforce
Throughout the workday, leaders must span boundaries to collaborate across the organization. They work with colleagues from different departments and levels; they work with external stakeholders; they unite different teams. They also manage remote employees who cross geographical boundaries – this is one of the most important areas of focus when some team members work on-site while others work remotely.
When determining what a hybrid workforce will look like for your organization, consciously consider your personal team's network within the organization. Ask yourself:
How does my team interact with external teams?
How do my team members and I interact best with those teams?
How is my team currently crossing boundaries?
How do we promote interaction, better dialogue, and effective collaboration between departments in a hybrid work environment?
While more hybrid teams may present new collaboration and boundary-spanning challenges, solutions to today's most pressing business challenges are often found at the intersection of multiple boundaries.
5.Empowering employees to make contributions by connecting remote workers with office and remote colleagues
By connecting relationships between employees, support them in making contributions and productivity, and create an inclusive team atmosphere independent of employees' work locations. For example, implement new communication and collaboration platforms to facilitate asynchronous work between people in different time zones or with different work schedules.
Establish trust and psychological safety so that dispersed workers can safely share challenges with the team for collective problem-solving. For instance, conduct virtual workshops to help people better understand and learn from each other's skills and strengths.
According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, the nature and task of the team will determine the communication channels used by hybrid leaders. For example, teams that can work independently but do not require much collaboration, such as those responsible for reporting, executing administrative tasks, making simple decisions, sharing information, drafting documents, and conducting financial analysis, can communicate through virtual tools such as Slack and Zoom.
Similarly, most one-on-one communications between leaders and direct reports, including some coaching, can be effectively carried out through virtual communication methods.
Even critical tasks that require team members to integrate knowledge can now be effectively completed through virtual channels with the right tools. For example, tasks such as breakthrough innovation, solving complex problems, building culture, and resolving conflicts are usually better suited for in-person work, but with the right technology, such as enterprise discussion management platforms, they can also be accomplished effectively in a virtual environment.
As a remote leader, your job is to minimize the complexity of virtual communication as much as possible. Follow these clear, transparent communication best practices to help prevent misunderstandings, disconnection, undefined expectations, and information overload: keep messages concise to maintain the recipient's attention, and ensure the delivery method is easy to understand. If the information is crucial, do not hesitate to over-communicate to avoid any ambiguity.
If you are a hybrid leader or supporting a hybrid leadership team, the Kandao Meeting Pro panoramic AI video conference machine is a valuable tool that can connect and engage employees no matter where they are.