How to lead effectively in the hybrid work format

The consanguineous companion of the fully-remote model, the hybrid work model is the fair-haired one, more favoured as it splices the best of two worlds: working inside and outside the office environment. Spotlighting the most obvious benefits accruing from this model: Social capital is built organically, meaningful collaboration is made possible; and work-life balance is not compromised. While it offers teams great benefits, it also makes heavy demands on them, especially the leadership.

With the tech industry still largely operating remotely, the hybrid work life still remains only partially unwrapped, and largely “un-lived”. However, there have been enough samplers already to gauge its impact on leadership. This impact is part of the discussions and answers to questions around the hybrid model raised in a recent report prepared by National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Here are the salient features of what the report — titled ‘Shaping the Future of Work in India's Tech Industry’ — has to say about leading in a hybrid-work environment.

The adaptation

Here are the things that managers have to bear in mind as they switch over to the hybrid work format:

1. The feedback mechanism should have more horsepower, moving faster than ever before. Regular reviews are indispensable; so are one-on-one sessions with team members.

2. Reverse-mentoring should be encouraged, giving remote natives the responsibility of benchmarking — and also elucidating upon — newer technologies that might enhance team collaboration in a hybrid online-offline format.

3. The manager may have to let go of the privilege of being ‘the mentor’ in favour of “Community of Practice”, one that promotes peer-to-peer sharing, coaching and learning.

Winning behaviours

Here are the behaviours leaders need to cultivate to lead effectively in this format:

1. Promoting trust and autonomy

Team members should be allowed to have “greater autonomy over work methods and timing of their work”. Leaders should create alternatives to the regular water-cooler conversations consistently so that employees interact regularly and freely, ensuring trust and transparency.

2. Creating a level-playing field

Leaders should maintain an “emphasis on comparable feedback frequency and detail for remote and in-person employees; employ objective, data-backed performance measures; and ensure all employees in office dial into calls.”

And the report notes that “leaders should avoid being ‘in office’ at all times”, thereby promoting the hybrid-work format in spirit.

3. Ensuring digital social intimacy

Digital social intimacy is fostered by “utilisation of virtual tools for coaching and feedback; and celebration of success in remote settings by sharing stories of success, offering personal comments to remote employees; and randomised peer catch-ups and small group discussions; and celebration of personal highlights over virtual get-together.”

4. Ensuring localised decision-making

There are three facets to making sure that decision-making has an overpowering local flavour to it: “Actively empowering employees to step up and voice opinions; integrating lower-level employees into key meetings and decision-making activities; and creating opportunities to train employees dealing with external stakeholders in decision-making”

Evolving roles

Leadership is traditionally defined by a pyramidal structure, with its top-down emphasis. With fresh insights around effective management blasting in, this structure has been in jeopardy for some time now.

And now, the hybrid work model seems to be dealing this structure a body blow.

In this new work format, roles traditionally played by leaders are either taken over or enhanced.

One, the mentorship role has been “shifted to Community of Practice & HR”. The report notes that young employees love to learn in a community construct.

Two, people management role has been “retained by the team lead” but with the demand to “create a culture of psychological safety”. This is how the report spells it out: “Managers should create a sense of psychological safety (fairness, equity) so that trust is maintained in career management, L&D, career progression.”

Three, as part of another evolving role, leaders have to place the punctuation on “learning and solving problems with Community of Practice and peers”.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 1:14:01 am |