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ATD Blog

Cultivating Trust With Hybrid Teams

Monday, April 12, 2021

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 Trust

Trust 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 Leader

In 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.

About the Author

With more than 25 years of leadership experience, Phyllis Sarkaria is a certified coach, facilitator, and trusted adviser. Phyllis has held executive roles in government affairs and human resources and has had responsibility for functions as diverse as strategic planning, merger integration, and team effectiveness. She has led multi-million-dollar system implementation and integration initiatives and has worked closely with Commercial and R&D leaders to build capability in their functions and improve individual and organizational outcomes.

Before founding The Sarkaria Group, Phyllis served as an internal adviser and coach to C-level executives and other key employees at Quidel Corporation, a leading medical diagnostics manufacturer, in her role as head of HR where she was responsible for the company’s global HR strategy and people programs for more than a dozen years. In addition, she has held financial analysis, strategic planning, government affairs, and HR roles with large, matrixed corporations in the energy industry, and has served on the faculty of several universities. A published scholar on authentic leadership, Phyllis currently teaches ethics and HR analytics in the MA, Organizational Leadership and MA, Human Resources Management programs at Claremont Lincoln University. She has also served on several non-profit boards in both San Diego and San Francisco.

A proud Red Raider, Phyllis holds a BBA, Finance and an MBA from Texas Tech University and an MA, Ethical Leadership from Claremont Lincoln University. Her coaching certifications are from the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching, and Systemic Team Coaching from Peter Hawkins through the Academy of Executive Coaching. She is also a Master Certified Corporate Coach (MCEC) through the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches. Phyllis uses the following assessments in her practice: Success Insights DISC & 12 Driving Forces, EQi 2.0 / EQ360, Judgment Index, MBTI, and Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). She is a certified trainer in Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability.

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