Remote working may have been fuelled off the back of the pandemic, but it now has its place firmly cemented in the future of work. Most employees prefer having the option to work remotely from home, while most businesses have benefitted from adopting more flexible working practices. Indeed, according to a survey last year, 83% of companies found hybrid or remote working to be a successful solution.
However, this success depends heavily on team leadership. There are many different leadership styles in the workplace, and managing a team of diverse workers has always been a challenging task that requires a refined skill set. When coupled with the lack of face-to-face meetings, effective communication and synchronicity within a team are even harder to achieve. Whether you are a new hybrid team leader or an experienced manager, the task can be daunting.
Thankfully, we are here to help! Here we run through all the tips on how to lead a hybrid team successfully to get the most out of your employees, hit business targets, and set your company up for remote working success.
What Makes a Great Hybrid or Remote Team Leader?
A great hybrid or remote team leader needs to be a good listener and an effective communicator. This goes for office-based leaders as well but is even more fundamental when managing a team from a distance. It is not possible to see the productivity of the team or check the status of tasks as you could in the office. Therefore, goals, objectives and results need to be outlined as clearly as possible so all team members know their roles and what is expected of them.
The communication and listening skills of a remote leader must go further than simply communicating tasks and responsibilities, too. When working remotely, it is down to the leader to help the team feel connected and function as a single unit. This is largely done through informal communication, group collaboration, and team-building exercises. Doing so helps motivate the team, boosting morale despite the distance.
What is Hybrid Leadership?
Hybrid leadership is when a manager leads a team that operates on a hybrid working model. This model is a type of flexible working that combines both remote and office-based work. Therefore, hybrid leadership is a blend of traditional management styles that are adapted to more flexible working practices. It requires not only good business insight, delegation, and communication, but also a well-attuned emotional intelligence and a more personal approach to leadership. This helps teams feel connected, no matter whether they’re working from home or in the office.
As with office-based management styles, there are several different approaches to hybrid leadership. Below are some of the most effective hybrid leadership examples that work in a remote or hybrid environment:
Participative leaders tend to be extremely enthusiastic and encouraging. They like asking their employees for their insight, and would rather take the time to get input from others than set predetermined goals. This approach works well when managing virtually as it helps employees feel engaged and connected, thus they’re able to function as a cohesive unit.
Transformational leaders take a more “lead by example” approach to management. By making sure all employees have as much information and context as they need to achieve the company's purpose, these leaders allow employees to make decisions on their own. This works in a remote environment where a high level of trust is needed. It helps to empower workers and provide them with a bigger sense of purpose.
Situational leadership is arguably the most effective hybrid leadership example. These leaders have outstanding communication and emotional intelligence skills and excel at understanding how each team member works thanks to their self-awareness. This enables them to adapt their leadership style to suit each workers situation and get the most out of every team member.
Servant leaders work alongside their team members as more of an equal to facilitate growth and development from the bottom up. They closely listen to all team members and know them well on a personal basis. These leaders make plenty of time for feedback sessions and listen to their team to help guide their decisions. This works remotely as it creates a community feel and boosts employee engagement.
4 Tips on How to Lead a Hybrid Team
Choosing one of the four above hybrid leadership styles that best suits your skills and characteristics will line you up for success as a remote leader. Though as you can see, several overlapping skills are fundamental to successful management. So, what makes a great hybrid leader? Follow these tips to help improve your virtual leadership skills.
1. Communicate Clearly
Communication is a vital skill for any manager. However, virtual leaders need their communication to be even more crystal clear. When communicating with a team remotely via email or messages, there is ambiguity in every piece of text. This can lead to a complete misunderstanding of what tasks need completing or which are a priority. Even when on a call or communicating via a video meeting, meaning can be misconstrued and team members are left confused.
Therefore, make sure everything is communicated clearly. If communicating verbally with your team, you could send written confirmation after the call. You can also ask team members questions about their responsibilities to check their understanding.
When you communicate is also crucial. Remember that many hybrid models have employees working from different countries or at different flexible working hours. Take the various time zones, out-of-work responsibilities, and other internal meetings and deadlines of your whole team into account before communicating urgent and important information.
2. Have Informal Conversations
When asked, “What makes a great remote leader?” most people disregard the importance of informal communication. However, hybrid leadership dramatically improves when you get to know your team. All workers need to feel listened to and appreciated, and there is no better way to do that than connecting on a personal level and building a true relationship.
Think about it – when in an office environment, there are plenty of opportunities to hear about what is going on outside of work. Whether that’s at lunch or general chit-chat while sitting at a desk, working in the office is more social. However, connecting in a virtual workspace has to be more proactive and deliberate. Start weekly meetings by encouraging team members to share stories or answer silly ice-breaker-style questions. Not only does this prove your relationship with your team, but also the relationship between team members.
3. Provide Feedback Opportunities
You also need to get to know how your team members would like to grow professionally. What tasks do they find the most difficult? What skills do they want to develop to help improve their career prospects? How can you help them develop these skills and become better at their jobs? This could relate to training opportunities the company offers, but also one-on-one help on specific tasks.
This is vital in a remote workplace as leaders cannot see clearly what tasks their team members are struggling with. Providing training where needed also helps to strengthen the team and help you make better decisions when delegating work for improved efficiency. Moreover, feedback is another avenue for helping employees feel heard and appreciated. This boosts engagement and helps improve things like staff retention and absences.
4. Be Dynamic and Adaptable
One of the main struggles with working remotely is keeping to schedules. When managing from a distance, it is difficult to ensure all team members are focused on the goals and are on track with project deadlines. Therefore, all good hybrid leaders are dynamic and adaptable. You must be able to step in and complete tasks, leading from example rather than directly in front.
This helps the team keep on schedule for important goals and projects. At the same time, it also boosts team motivation. Everyone appreciates a leader who gets involved with the team. Working and hitting deadlines as one unit is highly rewarding and encourages employees to keep working hard.
Hybrid Team Leadership Challenges
Leading a hybrid or remote team has a unique set of challenges. It can be difficult not to micromanage individuals to ensure everyone is on track to hit their goals. Coupled with the communication difficulties and limitations on collaboration, creating a synchronised team that shares functions as one is difficult. Where there is no perfect skillset for hybrid leadership, the above tips and leadership styles can act as guidance. You need to find a solution that works for you and your team, with a focus on communication, listening and dynamism. To help effectively bring people together in the remote workspace, online tools like DuoMe can also help. Our flexible working platform helps hybrid teams collaborate efficiently and makes your job as a leader that bit easier.