After months of working remotely, Sara was eager to get back into the office and work with her team face-to-face. She was disappointed when her employer decided to allow employees the choice of continuing to work remotely. Sara was concerned that her hybrid team—some in the office and others working from home—would lack the cohesion that had made them highly successful in the past. She was concerned that remote workers might become less engaged or committed to their projects and that those in the office would have to pick up the slack. She worried about incorporating new hires into the team seamlessly. What could she do to support her team and help all of them perform at their best?
Maybe, like Sara, you are facing the challenges of leading a hybrid team. Effective leadership requires trust between the leader and their team members. Today’s fluid, flexible team dynamics require a different approach to leadership.
Key Components of TrustTrust in your team members—their trust in you as a leader will keep them focused and on track. Four key components of trust are:
- Credibility represents the confidence that the person has the expertise to do their job. It is a two-way street. Team members must have confidence in your expertise and leadership. You must be comfortable that they have the technical proficiency to do their jobs.
- Dependability is something you can build with impeccable follow-through. Even the smallest commitment matters because those making idle promises gain a reputation for poor reliability.
- Respect is something you earn by the way you treat your colleagues. By acknowledging each team member as a person, you honor the work relationship.
- Care involves taking time to get to know your team members. This requires the effort to reach out on a personal level and to demonstrate interest in and empathy for them.
Actions to Stand Out as a LeaderIn addition, the following actions can help you stand out as a leader during this transition to a new way of working.
1. Clearly state expectations and hold everyone accountable. Clarity of expectations supports credibility and reliability, and demonstrates care when everyone understands that they are all held to a similar standard of performance, regardless of work location. Yes, you may need to take into account that a team member is also home-schooling children. Be fair and have well-defined deliverables and deadlines.
2. Frequency of contact matters. Regardless of whether an employee is just outside your doorway or beyond borders, make a point to reach out to every direct report regularly. This goes beyond asking for updates on their work. What’s going well? What challenges are they running into? How can you help them? Really listen to the answers.
3. Hold regular team meetings, in addition to one-on-one conversations. Make a point of inviting participation from each team member, especially those who are not physically present. Have an agenda. Consider rotating responsibility for running the meeting or assign a spokesperson for each agenda item. When someone has been particularly quiet, ask for their thoughts.
4. Diversify your means of communication. In addition to communicating regularly, switch up the tools you use for reaching out. Some information is appropriately passed along to the entire team via email. A quick text may be just what’s needed to pass along updates. In the age of easy video chat, sometimes we forget that a phone call can be more powerful, especially with “Zoom fatigue” so prevalent.
5. Avoid an “us” versus “them” culture. By the very nature of seeing some team members daily and others only via video chat, it is easy to begin relying more heavily on those you run into in the hallway. This is a slippery slope that can undermine team cohesion. Don’t do it, and don’t allow team members to either.
6. Create opportunities to build community. One way to build camaraderie when the entire team is not co-located is to allow time for team members to get to know one another. This could include a quick ice-breaker at the beginning of each team meeting or special networking meetings.
After considering these steps, Sara was excited about the possibility for creating new connections and building on existing ones as she brought clear intention to her work as a leader. Understanding what impacts trust, why it matters, and how to use this knowledge to further strengthen relationships can serve as an accelerator of success, for Sara and for you.