If the last couple of years have taught us anything about leadership, it’s that the way we once led isn’t so fit for purpose in a hybrid or completely remote team environment. Yes, we need to be flexible, adaptable and keeping up with change at rates like never before. And then there are the fundamental things that, if we aren’t doing, will make it harder to adapt, lead through change and truly engage with our people. The things that if we aren’t doing them at a basic level, will erode trust. The trust you have in your team and the trust that you have in yourself to be able to lead effectively.
Below I hit the high points for what you can be doing to get the basics right in a hybrid or remote team environment.
1. Ensure alignment with clear directional objective
Ensure your team are pulling in the same direction, no matter where they are located, and that everyone in the team is on the same page regarding the:
- Purpose of the team (what is the team’s reason for being?)
- Shared team objectives and how they fit with the bigger strategic picture.
- Individual objectives that everyone is working towards in achieving the team objectives.
When we are clear and transparent about these three directional levels, your people will know where and how they need to be investing their energy. Importantly, our experience shows that it also creates a collaborative and connective team dynamic that is so essential for success in teams that are virtual or hybrid in nature. Be brave enough to ask your team how they feel about sharing their individual objectives; introducing this level of transparency can help reduce the psychological distance and increase collaboration when we realise that our actions, no matter where we are located, may be able to contribute to the success of a colleague and therefore the team. Track and discuss all team objectives openly and regularly – they are the binding factor of your team – so use them to your advantage.
2. Set Your Team Up for Success
When we don’t trust our people to get on with things in a remote or hybrid environment, this can often say more about us than our people. We’ll talk more about us a bit further on, but when it comes to our team, we can remove doubt by applying a couple of simple strategies:
- Equip your team with the skills and team systems to work remotely. On one level, it’s helping the team learn how to be a hybrid team, and then there is understanding capability of individual team members to work remotely. So focus on both levels. Develop your team through simple but effective teaming activities that allow you to co-create the rules of engagement (like a Team Charter) and define the team governance for communication and collaboration – what does good look like for our team? At the same time observe your team members individually. Who is thriving, who is doing ok, who needs help. Identify development opportunities, whether it be through buddying up, mentoring or formal courses.
- Don’t assume everyone is comfortable with working remotely. Use your 1:1’s to dive into how your team members are really doing on the days you aren’t together in the office. Or if your team has transitioned to being completely virtual, learning how this sits with individual team members. You may need to become a ‘mentor manager’ to support them in their transition and their effectiveness.
3. Set Yourself Up for Success
- Understand your own mindset. You were once leading a team that was co-located – so how are you with the fact that you are now leading in a hybrid or completely virtual environment? Do you trust your team to do their job when no one is watching? Even when they are capable, confident and have the right supporting structures in place? If you haven’t done your own piece of reflection on this, you may be leading at only half your potential effectiveness, and this will be impacting your approach to how you get your own job done as well as how you lead, engage, and inspire your team.
- Adapt your approach. Similar to the above; the skills, techniques and tactics we use as leaders in a co-located environment will need to be different for a team that is spread out. Little things like consciously make time to connect with your team members will make a difference, as will using effective delegation. Your ability to communicate well and consistently across more than one medium is also a must-have capability.
The final word…Reflect
Carve out time each week to reflect on the team and yourself. This is a practice that is fast becoming a non-negotiable for leaders in a hybrid world that helps us stay in touch with reality, ourselves and our team. Reflect on yourself and your team through the lens of the points in this article. What’s working well? What could be better? Then build this discipline into your week, because leading to get things done through others is the big part of your job…and how we do this is changing faster than ever.