Teamwork in hybrid teams: high-altitude leadership
In our podcast ‘Hybrid: Are you asking the right questions?’ we asked leaders struggling with the ‘to hybrid or not’ decision to hit pause, and have a conversation with their team about their shared goals and aspirations so that they could work out how to best set themselves up for success – whether that meant hybrid, virtual or face to face.
This month using the findings from our ‘Teamwork in hybrid teams’ research with the London School of Economics and Squadify we move the conversation on. Looking at the fact that hybrid teams appear to value teamwork – across all measures – more than teams located in the same place, we explore what that means for leadership and the hybrid conversation.
Moving from hybrid by accident to hybrid by design
There’s plenty of research to suggest that there are major upsides to hybrid and virtual working, like access to a global and diverse pool of talent, and flexibility for employees. But it’s our contention that teams won’t benefit from these upsides if they continue to work in a ‘hybrid by accident’ mode.
When we say, ‘hybrid by accident’, we’re talking about the way so many teams pivoted to remote and hybrid working during Covid. This swift response meant teams could continue delivering for their businesses and clients whilst learning how to work in a new hybrid model at the same time.
But Covid was a crisis, and a crisis gives people permission to act outside the normal or ‘accepted’ culture of the team and organisation. It’s like an escape valve. During Covid leaders and teams paid close attention to keeping teams engaged and making sure people were included, from the swift roll-out of technology to Friday afternoon quizzes and charters of behaviour in Teams calls. But the Covid crisis is over and many of these great ideas have fizzled out because people are exhausted.
And you can’t simply take this crisis way of working and transfer it into the everyday, business as usual world. For real change, leaders need to switch their mindset and in this case, it means switching from ‘hybrid by accident’ mode to ‘hybrid by design’, but how?
High-altitude leadership for high-performance hybrid teams
Just as athletes train at high altitude to improve their lung capacity for events at sea level, we see hybrid team leadership as a set of disciplines which will equip every leader to lead better wherever their team is located. We call it ‘high altitude training for leadership’.
The skills and behaviours needed for high-altitude leadership and creating a high-performing team are simply great leadership skills, like:
- Creating a learning culture
- Trust and psychological safety
- Clarity of a shared vision and goals that the whole team feels ownership for
- Building and nurturing strong relationships within and across teams
- Leveraging technology to support our interactions across the full range of team activities
The big difference is that it needs a mindset attuned to being deliberate about the relationships and communication in your team underpinned by a ‘practising’ or training mindset.
So, what next?
It’s our view that the hybrid challenge comes down to leadership. It’s about leaders being deliberate in their actions and choices, especially when it comes to engaging and supporting a team when all those normal, natural touch points that come when you’re all in the same place, are missing.
- Accept that leading a hybrid team is hard but adopt a ‘practicing’ mindset and see what happens. Does the pressure to have all the answers lift? ‘practising’ having open and honest conversations with your team helps everyone to get better at it, and each time you practising you gain knowledge and information too.
- Define the relationships you want, take time to nurture them and focus on clear, open and consistent communication across the team. Relationship first, always is the mantra.
The research is based on an analysis of the Squadify scores for IMPORTANCE of the 37 conditions for success in teams across the Squadify database of over 2600 teams globally. Importance scores give an insight into what teams’ value rather than what they actually do. We call that the W1 – the first and most important question teams and team leaders can ask themselves. ‘What do we want to achieve and why?’