It is one thing to take a group of individuals and create a team in a shared environment/workplace. It is another when everyone is remote from each other, on a level (although sometimes challenging) playing field. But when some of your team members are together part of the time while others may work flexible schedules. Countless additional variables may come into play, then what?
If you are asking that question, congratulations—you lead a hybrid team. Here are three things you must do now to create and support this to be highly successful.
1. Engage team members more
If you are still determining what your future workplace will look like (schedules and physical situations), engage your team members more. The further involved in the decision-making people are, and the more transparent the process, the extra commitment you will gain for your final plan. If your plan is in place, engage the team in its implementation as much as possible for the same reasons.
Once you are in a new “steady state” of operations, the engagement of team members will continue to be critical. It is likely that not everyone will have equal access (whether this is perceived or real) to leaders and won’t all feel they have the chance to participate in projects equally. By continuing to engage, ask and involve your team members as much as possible, you will see where there are issues and challenges that you might not otherwise notice or become aware of.
2. Make expectations clear
As the working situation changes, the expectations regarding the work will also change in some ways. As leaders, we must be especially clear on what these expectations are, and diligent in making them mutually understood by team members.
Specifically, there will be expectations in three areas:
The what expectations.
The why expectations.
The how expectations.
While the what expectations—the work deliverables themselves, the quality and timeliness of those deliverables—may not change, make sure to reassess and reconfirm them with individuals and the larger team as well. Don’t assume people know what these are. Clarity on these expectations is the bare minimum needed for team and individual success.
The why expectations or the why of the work must also be clear. Have you ever had a task to do, but didn’t know who was using it or for what purpose? Were you as successful in doing it, or did you find as much meaning in that work? This is precisely why the purpose and why of the work must be clear.
The longer people work alone (at least some of the time), the less likely that the purpose of the work (or the connection between their outputs and team success) is clear. Clarifying the why expectations of work is critical to the team’s overall success and the return of individual team members.
The how expectations are the expectations about how people will interrelate, collaborate and communicate. Without question, these expectations will change (again) as people settle into a new set of working situations and environments. Work with the team and individuals to determine these expectations as the way you work continues to change.
3. Let employees help achieve success
The move to a hybrid working arrangement is more complex and contains more unknowns than most of us have encountered in the past. As a leader, if you are anxious about this, it is understandable. If you are still trying to figure it out, you aren’t alone.
You don’t need to have all the answers. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to figure it all out, invite the team to work with you to find the best solutions. You have competent people with different perspectives and experiences that can help you create better situations for everyone. The best hybrid team leaders are willing to let go of some of their need for expertise and control, and let the team help solve problems and create new solutions.
While a hybrid team approach carries new responsibilities for you, there are opportunities, too. When you apply the three ideas shared here, you will be on your way to reducing your risk and increasing the chance that everyone will succeed.