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How to lead differently in a hybrid world?

Most of us have started working in the hybrid model.

We thought remote work was overwhelming. Hybrid has gotten one step further.

The certainty of everyone working remotely has now been removed - probably the one & only certainty after the pandemic.

While interacting with my clients, they say it's a tough time for leaders.

Employee engagement is tanking. Connection & Belonging are missing.

Whatever interventions worked earlier are not working anymore.

Every day it is a task to understand who is working from where.

Decision making is slower when in-person meetings have to be planned in advance.

Cross pollination of ideas is difficult with not all members of the team working together.

While all of us acknowledge humbly that there is no magic bullet, how does one lead differently in a changed world?

1. Consciously Planning Synchronous Vs Asynchronous work:

Figure 1: Courtesy Gartner Webinar: Unlock R&D Innovation With Intentional Collaboration

Gartner talks about 4 modes of flexible work as seen in the above figure 1.

These 4 modes stem from working in co-located spaces Vs Distributed spaces and work being Synchronous Vs asynchronous. While most of us have a preference for synchronous work, we need to take care not to overwhelm our teams with high collaboration requirements all the time.

Leaders need to look at the work distribution carefully to have a reasonable share of synchronous & asynchronous work. Choosing with intention is important. They need to let-go and not micro manage asynchronous work. Along with the team's input, they need to come up with joint work days for fostering innovation & engagement.

2. Building psychological safety:

Psychological safety is when the team feels safe to share their concerns on the way of working even though their views may be different from their leader. Listening to the team’s voice is an important part of leadership in the hybrid model. Active listening demonstrates empathy. Involving the team in the actions that work for all in the team demonstrates compassion. Reflecting and co-creating the right mode of work customised to the unique needs of the team is important because the finish line is indeed a mirage!

3. Attention to team's experience of Equity:

It pays to ask if all members in the team perceive that they are having an equitable experience in terms of the leader’s bandwidth & mind space. It feels easier for the leader to take a walk to the next cubicle and make decisions than involving everyone. However this might create a not so equitable experience for people working remotely and they may fear that they work will be overlooked due to lack of proximity to the leader. Conscious attention to small behaviours from the part of the leader is the need of the hour.

4. (Over)-communication:

To steer the ship with hybrid model requires the leader to sometimes over communicate on goals, outcomes and priorities. Repetition helps to retain team focus. Taking additional care to keep everyone informed and requesting feedback on a periodic basis will help manage the work goals better.

5. Regular career conversations:

Having career conversations was always important. But it has become highlighted with the great resignation that is happening these days. People want to be valued for their work and shown a career path that is aligned to who they are. Hence there is an imperative for the leader to have a regular cadence for career conversations.

6. Self compassion:

The ask from the leader from the current times is high. To be effective in these times, the leader has to take care of their physical, mental, emotional & spiritual well-being. Let not the pressure of the times take a toll on you. Take adequate rest, breaks and be ready to face today. Tomorrow can wait!

What practice have you implemented that works best for a hybrid work environment?

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