Sam stared at his MS Teams chat and thought, “Should I or should I not? This will be the second reminder this morning but I really want to know if they are working on the project. This client is rather particular. Adam’s young kids are on home-based learning. Will he be distracted? Bina worked till 1.20 am on something else and emailed it to me. Is it too much if I ‘chase’ her on this? The guys onsite would appreciate the info though, and not to mention the team in Europe too!” Sam sighed and threw his arms up in exasperation.
Sam’s tensions and dilemmas might be familiar to anyone managing hybrid teams. The tensions of giving space, being understanding, and even compassionate seem opposed to that of wanting accountability, exacting work deliverables, standards, and timely updates. How does one manage these very real tensions and still be an effective leader, worthy of the people’s trust and commitment?
Leading hybrid teams and non-hybrid teams have many similar denominators – grow engagement, ownership, and mastery. The differentiating factor is the absence of face-to-face opportunities such as the physical workspace, the pantry, the meeting rooms, and the dining spaces. As such, how can a leader overcome these challenges to maintain or even enhance effectiveness?
Hybrid Team Enablers
To encourage collaboration and cohesion in hybrid teams, leaders can put in place enablers such as these to transcend the boundaries of time and space:
- Performance enablers – make visible goals, tasks, timelines, and outcomes to boost ownership and reflect the rhythm of the projects
- Communication enablers – create opportunities for members to touch base that deepen connection to the tasks as well as to one another
- Collaboration enablers – offer platforms that allow members to collaborate whenever and wherever
- Culture enablers – intentionally structure sessions to engage with team values, vision, and boost team morale
Team Productivity is dependent on Individual Productivity
Members of a hybrid team are likely to work at different hours and in different locations, including their homes, which implies competing demands and expectations. These challenges necessitate new conversations on factors that impact one’s productivity – routines, mindsets, skills, workspaces, and energy management. Rather than allowing unspoken expectations to spark frustrations and despair, managers of hybrid teams need to help members increase their self-awareness on the above elements and facilitate conversations on HOW to best work together. Emerging team agreements can help to boost ownership and communicate accountability. Teams would be energized to know that diversity in the team is appreciated and individually, they will feel increasingly confident operating in hybrid teams
The most important thing in maintaining effectiveness in a hybrid environment is the intentionality and effort to maintain the connectedness amongst people. When people feel that they are not isolated, “visible” and engaged to one other, they are more likely to contribute to the success of one another and the organization.
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