3 tips to help you lead hybrid teams

October 04, 2021

As we all try to figure out what the new normal looks like, so are businesses.
Should we all mask-up and go back to the office? Or continue to work from home in our slippers?
Many companies, like Google, are leaning towards the middle ground: the hybrid solution – a mix of remote and onsite working.
As a leader, and a human being, no doubt your resilience has been tested in the past year. And it will continue to be, as you transition your teams to a hybrid work model, while trying to keep everyone onboard.
But here’s the good news…
A few things I learned, and road-tested over the years leading global teams, can apply here and help you and your people jump over the hurdles.

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

If you do it right, you can’t overdo it.
  • Communicate often and schedule some of it (e.g., daily with the team – weekly with the individuals).
  • Be intentional, thoughtful, and empathic with your words and actions – show that you care – it will go a long way, and it’s the right thing to do.
  • Find out how your people really are. Not just where they are on their latest lead. And make it a company culture to check in on each other.
  • Use different communication channels and mix them up: Phone, face to face, digital. We each have our preferred one, yours may not be everyone else’s.
  • Make team meetings all virtual or all in-person.
  • Remember being the only one on the line when all your colleagues are in the room? How did that make you feel? Moving online if some people are working remotely puts everyone an equal footing.
  • Schedule regular in person team meetings (e.g., once a month or a quarter) – Turn it into an opportunity to bond, do it over lunch or follow up with a fun activity.
  • Give your people regular feedback on their performance.
  • They want it, and it will help them grow.
  • Teach them how to do it among themselves.
  • Coach them to support their development.
  • Ask open ended questions “how can I support you?”
  • Don’t make assumptions – I know, easier said than done, right? We make a lot!
  • Focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses, and on how to develop them.
  • Create a Mentor or Buddy system for new hires to facilitate their immersion into the culture – it’s hard to build connections when you don’t have the informal corridor chats or coffee breaks.
  • Make sure career advancement opportunities are applied equally.
  • “Out of sight, out of mind” is a big concern for remote workers – and a reality that many women on maternity leave or working part time have been battling since forever.
  • Write a Hybrid Work Policy and involve your employees from the start in its creation
  • Get their input to understand their challenges (via a survey, roundtable, meetings, etc…).
  • When you offer flexibility and options, say clearly what they are and who they are for.
  • Include role specific explanations in the policy to cover every remote worker.
  • Be transparent and tell them what the criteria is when flexibility cannot be offered (so that they don’t feel unfairly treated).
  • Not all jobs can have flexible arrangements or can be done remotely.
  • Be super clear in job postings – what arrangements are possible?
  • Provide choices and communicate clearly on what they are.

2. Set Clear Expectations

  • On goals
  • What’s the expected outcome?
  • When should it be done by?
  • Who’s responsible?
  • On the logistics
  • How often are people expected to be in the office?
  • Do they have an assigned space? Or share a hot desk?
  • What equipment and collaboration tools do they have access to in each location?
  • On the meeting norms
  • Define shared working hours where everyone is expected to be online every day. The rest of the time let them organise their own schedule.
  • Set boundaries: Outline the hours people are expected to work – don’t schedule meetings or expect them to reply to their emails outside of those hours – don’t be the offender! Others will follow your lead.
  • Zoom fatigue is a real thing – let them turn off their screens when needed, or switch to an audio call from time to time.

3. Be There For Your People

  • Be available – let them know that they can come to you for support, resources, material, change in schedule – or just to chat, and listen to them.
  • Find out what their stumbling blocks are and remove them when you can.
  • Make sure you understand what everyone’s needs are.
  • Manage performance: Not everyone has the discipline to work remotely, even if they want to. If it’s not working, offer support, have an honest conversation, and establish the options.
  • Lead the way by modelling the behaviours you want to see.
  • It will boost your team’s moral
  • Build trust and respect
  • Foster a positive culture
  • Help them set boundaries
  • Celebrate successes together.
  • Include everyone who contributed (assistants, admins, support departments) you can’t do it alone, let them know that you appreciate that.
The secret is to give your people everything they need, and then show them that you trust them to do their job correctly. And just let them get on with it.
If you create a culture of trust by empowering them, you will
  • Increase productivity and retention – as it will help them organise their life as they need to around their personal and professional responsibilities.
  • Improve engagement – as they will feel in control over their time and how they manage it.
Is it going to be difficult? Yep!
But if you embrace these habits, it will also be an opportunity for you to become a better leader.
And finally, be patient!
It’s a process. It will not happen overnight. There will be trials and errors, and that’s OK.
So, tell me, what are your tips to make the Hybrid system work?
Hi I’m Maria Kelly, an international leadership consultant and coach.
I help bold leaders and business owners get unstuck and show them how to inspire their teams to follow them and take action.