Today, leaders are faced with a new kind of team, hybrid teams.
'Hybrid teams' refers to contemporary teams, some of which work in the office and others who work from home. As such, leaders now have to learn an additional set of management skills that span both office-based and virtual environments, on top of their already strenuous workload.
For obvious reasons, learning a whole new skill set is an incredibly hard task to master for even those with plenty of times on their hands. Adding this to the list of prerequisite skills is only making it more difficult to find and engage incredible leaders. However; some leaders are meeting this challenge head-on and striving to grasp the new skills needed to manage exceptional hybrid teams.
The leadership skills that apply in a virtual environment differ to those we need in face-to-face situations.
In this article, we uncover the five key skills that outstanding leaders need to develop to lead the workforce of the future, and why some leaders are simply better than others.
In virtual environments, we no longer have the luxury of seeing all our people and reading their posture, body language or tone. Leaders are having to develop skills that suit both virtual and in-office scenarios because now more than ever, we are working with both in-office and home-based staff. And, what is clear is that these hybrid teams are here to stay.
Since March, we've been digging down to find what contemporary leaders who are managing hybrid teams well are doing, and if there are unique skills required. When you are looking for your next leader, it is vital to ensure they possess these skills.
Here are 5 skills you need to develop to stay competitive in this new working environment:
1. The ability to flow through different communication mediums for different uses: Trust us, death by Zoom conference is real.
Many employees complain about zoom/teams fatigue, that's because leaders are not thinking about which of the mediums are the best to use. Instead of defaulting to pulling a team together over Zoom, leaders with exceptional virtual leadership skills pause and think about which channel/medium is best to use to keep their squad actively engaged. Great leaders also think about timing; just because it’s come up now, doesn't mean it needs to be communicated right away.
If it is something that can wait, they ask themselves should it be shared at a more reasonable time rather than interrupting their team right now.
Leaders with well developed virtual leadership skills navigate smoothly between a range of channels. For example, they are proficient at using pre-recorded media for one way group messaging. This could be done by recording a “teams” meeting and sharing the link or, using Vidyard or Soapbox. These one-way mechanisms are perfect for when you need to provide an update, that doesn't require interaction.
Instant Messaging (IM) again is an excellent channel for quick and zest questions and answers. However, it’s rife with challenges as soon as a quick chat transforms into a discussion. This can be dangerous as it’s hard to control tone, and sometimes it’s simply more efficient to use the phone.
Leaders with well developed virtual leadership skills read the play and make sound judgments about when a text-based conversation should be transitioned to a voice or in-person conversation. They are quick to address it, as they are aware of how much information can be communicated by tone.
Great virtual leaders are also well attuned to knowing when a face-to-face session is needed. They understand that it takes time and effort and face to face interactions to build relationships. Furthermore, they are also mindful that not every conversation or meeting has to be about something, and know that some sessions are simply about checking on members of their team.
Another practical skill shared by hybrid team leaders is their ability to block out time to do the actual work. To cater for this, some organisations have moved 12-3 pm deep work time or productivity hours. This is helping them avoid the endless ongoing comms and feedback, creating time for their teams to get the work done.
In summary, one of the critical skills adept virtual leaders demonstrate is not just knowing how to leverage different mediums to communicate; they also know how to flow between those mediums to get the best outcomes from the team.
2. They are skilled at providing their team members autonomy.
We can’t check in on our home-based employees in the same way we can our team members who are in the office. Leaders who have mastered the skills associated with leading hybrid teams have learned to put their trust in workers’ capabilities. But, they are not doing this blindly. These management experts have honed their skills in:
- Being clear on expectations.
- Delegating projects or packages of work to teams or employees.
- Agreeing on check-in points to evaluate how the work is going.
- Clearly outlining deadlines.
- Constantly developing a culture of accountability.
3. They are proactive about staying in contact with their team, dispersed or not.
Staying in contact can take many forms, and the same approach that works for one of your team members will drastically fail if you apply it to another team member.
A leader who has nailed this skill knows to stay in contact with their team and considers the individual management requirements of each team member.
Individual management could take any number of forms, such as setting up weekly catch-up calls or having frequent team meetings. No matter how it is done, the virtual leader needs to be proactive in staying abreast of what their team is working on. Another observable action was that managers with the most engaged teams seem to communicate with their people at least once a day in a chatty manner, no doubt creating comfortability and building on the working relationships.
4. They have killed ambiguity.
Leaders who are skilled in this space have become precise communicators. They leave no room for ambiguity and work purposefully to remove any confusing language from their communications. They are clear and concise, knowing that when managing teams who span both WHF and office-based environments there is plenty of opportunity for misunderstandings.
Managers of hybrid teams run a proactive, defence strategy to reduce the rate of miscommunication.
5. They have mastered the skill of communicating the big picture, often.
When you are working with a team that is both office-based and working from home, it can be easy to fall into a tactical task. Adept leaders have learned how and when do pull their teams’ attention away from the detail and direct this toward the horizon. Often this is simply an instinct, and ability to read the team dynamics. Some leaders describe this as being able to take the team’s temperature and know when to reconnect them with the big picture.
It is clear that hybrid teams are here to stay; for this reason, leaders must look toward employing the new skills they need to help their team find success.