Strong leadership is indispensable element to influence and lead people through crisis situations. Though past two years offered leaders with many opportunities to learn and grow through uncertainty, it had also made it difficult for them to keep their workforce engaged and empowered. In order to effectively support changing or hybrid workplaces, they had to reframe and increase their capabilities to enable people to work in alignment. The most challenging however was to make some skill shifts to prioritise well-being and human connect.
Nearly everything about work has changed now. Today’s hybrid work models often pose more complexities to leaders as some people are able to work remotely while others’ job requirements need them to be present in-person. Leaders are expected to appropriately lead and take action to enable everyone on their teams to deliver effective outcomes, no matter when and where they are working from. Making changes in how they lead hybrid teams has become more important now than ever to influence them to reach their full potential.
Adaptability cushions the impact of change or disappointmentMarvin J. Ashton
Why is it important
Practices and norms that proved to be productive do not necessarily work well in in hybrid work environments. Earlier, since people were working in close proximity, communicating your goals/tasks or needs assertively was relatively easier. However, today’s workplaces need you to shift the way you communicate and collaborate.
Because of the flexibility offered during past two years, many now expect the leaders to accommodate flexible work schedules, so they can choose different team structures composed of in-site and remote workers. Since people split their time between the work in-person and working remotely, their how, where, and when of work keep changing according to the evolving situations.
Some of them will need to work more closely, coordinate when and where they work. Since the needs, demands and expectations have changed, reframing and making certain skill shifts ensures reinforcing collectively determined values and productive behaviours. This helps in setting expectations for ways of working, and seeking feedback on what is working and what is not to stimulate their work effectiveness.
New work environments forced employees reflective of their sense of belongingness, and whether or not they are valued and trusted. With limited opportunities to build trust in such work environments, leaders have to be more intentional in focusing on factors like their workforce’s well-being, vulnerability, inclusivity, while also maintaining productive outcomes in an unpredictable business markets.
Some leadership skill-shifts for hybrid workplaces
The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.John Buchan
Effective leadership is all about managing your mindset. Your mindset determines how you think, and interpret challenging situations as a leader, and how you navigate through problems and changing situations. So, it is important for leaders to embrace certain new mindsets to intentionally nurture people-first philosophy and inclusivity in hybrid working environments. Here are some shifts in terms of leadership mindset and capabilities to increase employee engagement, productivity and retention.
Emotional intelligence To Emotional agility.
As a leader, your thoughts, behaviours and feelings will either empower or disempower those you lead. And so does stress and anxiety which affect your emotional health. Though emotional intelligence (being aware and in control of your own emotions) is an essential leadership trait, the most important shift one can make in hybrid environments is to that of emotional agility.
Emotional agility goes beyond just awareness and control. It is the ability to be flexible with your feelings and thoughts as a leader in order to have an optimal response to the many different work situations you find yourself in. As a leader, if you become more agile, you can better navigate through facing thoughts and behaviours in your workplace with a mindset that’s open, instead of instantly reacting negatively.
With emotional flexibility, you learn to face your true emotions, and can move forward to step out and embrace possibilities. It increases your ability to accept, refuse or appreciate another person’s emotions. And allows you to be in the moment by aligning your intent with your core values. This ensures open communication and increases your ability to encourage positive emotions among others.
Prevention To Promotion mindset
During times of change, shifting to promotion mindset lets leaders focus on winning as opposed to those of prevention mindset whose focus is only not losing. With promotion mindset, their primary objective becomes to reach specific goals where they identify specific purpose and prioritise it. As a result, they encourage their teams working remotely to make every effort to progress towards this goal. And therefore engage them in getting more productive outcomes.
On the other hand, leaders with prevention mindset remain more focused on avoiding losses and preventing risks at all costs. Because of which they fail to explore all possibilities. They tend to see it as a problem or as a threat that hinders their authority. The possibility of flexible working schedules of their workforce needs leaders to make this shift in order to guide their teams to be willing to take risks. So, they are more likely to endure challenges from wherever they happen to be- remote or in-person.
Just getting work done To Empathy and Authenticity
Enduring uncertain circumstances and changes requires leaders to demonstrate more empathy and authenticity. Prioritising more connectedness rather just delegating to get the task done results in building trust and authenticity in hybrid work environments.
This shift is necessary since the workforce has different access to resources and varying levels of power dynamics, whether real or perceived. The way leaders support and empower team’s well-being, it is essential to allow flexible work hours to prevent burnout and to ensure work-life balance.
Prioritising inclusion and sharing the context of their work, and how it makes a difference to the big picture goals creates a sense of belongingness. When leaders focus more on their own vulnerability, and authenticity, they can successfully work towards building trust-based work relationships. As a result, they shift towards creating more space for sharing and understanding problems faced by others both inside and outside of work.
Communication to ‘tell’ To Communication to ‘inspire’
Communicating their needs, goals and objectives with clarity is indeed a must trait for every leader. This not only engages people to put in their effort to achieve goals, but also creates awareness of priorities. But however, the hybrid workplaces have changed the way how people perceive their work. They are reconsidering the reasons why they work, their purpose, for whom and the kind of work they do and how they do.
All these aspects require leaders to shift to a more inspirational ways to communication rather than to just communicate their goals/needs. When you make a conscious effort to engage in genuine conversations where their perspectives are heard and valued, you move beyond just engaging then in work to facilitate more deeper human connection.
Communicating to share different perspectives creates awareness and empowers them to learn and grow in their own ways. Inspiring people towards greater purpose for their work needs leaders to communicate their intent with clarity. Creating opportunities to learn and grow creates an incentive for them to contribute more in a hybrid set up.
Directing style To Coaching style
Most leaders adopt a directing style (S1 of situational leadership) which is high in directing behaviour, but is low in supportive behaviour. They make decisions and communicate them to others. Leaders of this style create roles/objectives and expect others to accept them. This in a way is effective when people need detailed directions as to tell them how, what, where, when and why to accomplish a task.
However, being high in both supporting and directive behaviours (S2 of situational leadership) creates a more collaborative approach towards changed work environments. By shifting to coaching style of leadership, leaders remain more open to discussion. This helps in training those who are low in their competence and commitment when working remotely.
Read more: What is Situational Leadership
Performance To Learning Agility
Leaders who operate from performance mindset focus more on making judgments about others’ competence. They make decisions based on the outcomes they get. In a way, they become more outcome biased of theirs as well as of others. When leaders are performance focused, they become rigid in their ways to understand challenges faced in changed work environments.
Instead, shifting to learning mindset keeps them motivated towards increasing their resilience to change, risks, and losses. When leaders shift to learning mindset, they increase their ability to quickly learn and unlearn. They not only indulge themselves learning new ways, but also try to do the same with their teams. Instead of judging individuals based on their performance, they generally become more inclined towards encouraging them to correct and learn from their mistakes.
Uncertainty To Clarity
People often experience information overload that can result in overwhelm and confusion. When they tend to avoid change and uncertainty, it can be quite demotivating when they are ambiguous and lack clarity. This makes them more reliant on their leaders to know what is certain and what to pay attention to. Though in most situations, leaders are inclined towards providing certainty. But this often leads to making promises they can’t keep.
Instead leaders will need to learn to deal with ambiguity and be clear, even when they can’t be certain. Cultivating transparency by sharing what they know and being honest about what they don’t creates clarity. Despite not having all the answers, it is important for them to discern the best possible ways to move forward despite the absence of full information.
Fixed To Growth Mindset
Leaders with fixed mindset are more likely to remain closed to new perspectives, feedback, changes, ambiguity and uncertainty. They get more focused on implementing their decisions or ideas and their primary concern becomes being viewed as right. Fixed mindset leaders think mostly in black and white or right or wrong.
Embracing new strategies and seek new methods to solve problems is important during managing hybrid work environments. Shifting towards growth instead makes you more aware of challenges faced and to think optimally. Managing virtual workforce requires leaders to be more open, and receptive to feedback. This fosters inclusivity and collaboration of people from diverse perspectives.
Space for self-reflection
What skill shifts do you need to lead hybrid teams?
Which mindsets aren’t helping you in getting productive outcomes?
As a leader, how willing or unwilling are you in making these shifts?
How often do you coach people in overcoming challenges faced in changed work environments?
What are some of your strategies to increase productivity of your hybrid workforce?
Today’s changed work environments have made leading one of the most difficult job, but also as one of the most influencing. To accommodate flexibility, prioritise inclusivity, connection, collaboration, learning and well-being, as a leader, one has to work towards shifting their skill set to support flexible hybrid work environments.
Leaders, who can effectively make these shifts build on right momentum, experience increased employee engagement and therefore have a competitive advantage over others who fail to do so. They can successfully bridge the gap between their employee’s work preferences, effectiveness and efficiency.
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