The pandemic has brought new ways of working for us and it’s likely that these will remain with us for quite some time. Many managers now find that they are leading a “hybrid” team, with some on-site and some working from home. This brings its own unique set of challenges.
How can leaders of hybrid teams jump-start team building so that performance is even better than before?
- We are creatures of habit: develop a new, shared routine with regular, short, team check-in times, and with an agreed regular agenda. With a dispersed team there can be different expectations of working hours, so make sure there are clear guidelines on when team members are expected to be available or responsive.
- Provide the right tools and establish norms for their use, for example: instant messaging, video conferencing, Whatsapp group, when to meet face-to-face.
- Ensure uniform access across the team to infrastructure and support (IT, HR, Health & Safety etc) . Be aware of, and sensitive to, home office limitations.
- Over communicate, especially in the early days. Make time for small talk on virtual meetings, so that everyone feels part of the team as much as possible. Spend more time on one-to-ones.
- The greatest risk is creating teams within teams, with those absent from the office feeling left out and missing the casual interaction with colleagues and bosses that can mean so much. Practise inclusivity by agreeing meeting times and agendas with all; providing equal access to you and your fellow managers; and creating virtual ‘water cooler’ moments. Make sure that information is available to all.
- Where logistics and safety concerns permit, try to get remote workers into the office from time to time, or meeting everyone offsite (and outside if necessary).
- In a hybrid team leaders have to work even harder to earn their team’s trust. Focus on establishing your credibility, being reliable, showing empathy, creating a safe environment and giving your time.
- With team members in different locations, it’s likely that your old ways working are now redundant. This presents an excellent opportunity for engagement by mapping out new work processes as a team, for example check lists, flow charts and templates.
- With dispersed workers it’s even more important to focus on outcomes rather than activities. Clearly define goals and desired results, and then set boundaries within which your team members can creatively adopt their new way of working.
- Hybrid teams are a new concept, so in the early days it’s inevitable that you will hit a few bumps in the road. Constantly seek feedback from individuals and the whole team, informally and formally. and be seen to act on it.
- Coaching is now seen as fundamental to leadership and yet many leaders barely recognise its importance. Hybrid working will probably be new to your team members, so help them to get the best out of themselves by being their coach.
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