Why more than ever hybrid workplaces need inclusive leadership
It is clear that hybrid workplaces need inclusive leadership. Leaders and managers need to upskill or hone their leadership styles
Organisations are tentatively feeling their way forward to the next phase of the post-pandemic recovery. Essentially the next normal is now. The pressure on leaders is going to increase. It is clear that hybrid workplaces need inclusive leadership. Leaders and managers need to upskill or hone their leadership styles. Some never possessed these skills in the first place or those that did have been so overwhelmed by events and the process of staying afloat, that they have fallen by the wayside.
It’s important to revise pre-pandemic management practices to improve the wellbeing of everyone which will obviously result in increased efficiency and productivity.
Working with different organisations internationally, I can see certain patterns emerging and why more than ever hybrid workplaces need inclusive leadership.
1. Lack of Self-awareness
Many managers and leaders have been so caught up in juggling it all, that they have put their own well-being on the back burner. Many are struggling and not aware of their own communication and leadership styles. They have stopped asking their teams and peers for feedback. Like cabin crew tell us if leaders don’t put on their own life vests first, they will not be able to take care of their teams.
2. Not in touch with their teams
Sure they are communicating with their teams, perhaps even regularly, but how much of that is checking-on not checking in? Running a hybrid team puts a lot of additional pressure on a manager. It requires higher levels of intention and empathy from everyone involved. They need to have their fingers on the pulse of what is going on for their teams as a group and individually.
Developing check-in not check-on rituals is important to give a litmus test of the mood of everyone in the group. I use the traffic light exercise and anyone who shows up as a “yellow” needs an eye kept on them. Anyone in the “red” zone is in trouble and will need support. This could be followed up by assigning a buddy or a mentor.
I have worked with a number of organisations where over 80% of their managers indicate they are not fully engaged. Leaders did not know that they had employees who reported feeling depressed and isolated in rudimentary pulse exercises. The issue is not the stat itself because when you know something exists you can take action. The issue was that they did not know or fully understand the implications.
Running a hybrid team means the pressure to motivate, role model, delegate, and prioritise will be greater than ever. It means making sure that the leaders align their own style with that of their teams, finding a balance that works for everyone. The need to run regular pulses to establish what is going on for their teams has never been more important. The “How are you?” intro will need amplification.
3. COVID Anxiety
COVID anxiety is real. Research suggests that over one-third of employees have concerns about returning to a more physically interactive life and being in enclosed spaces – offices and public transport. We are now hearing of even double-vaccinated people catching the virus. The period of the pandemic produced a widely reported spike in mental health issues. Some employees are reluctant to go back to their offices or travel, whereas some may looking forward to it.
Organizations and their managers need to talk to their people to find out what is really going on for them. Without this understanding it will be impossible to plan correctly. See the point above. Managing conflict between differing views on mask/no mask and vaccination/no vaccination will be a major issue in most workplaces during the next 12 months. Guaranteeing employee health and physical safety will be vital.
It’s more important than ever for managers to understand their own styles and how they align with the various styles of the teams. research from McKinsey suggests that 75% of their survey participants indicated that “the most stressful aspect of their job was their immediate boss.”
In the post-pandemic workplace, the most effective communication styles in a remote work environment are audible and visible listening techniques which is even more advanced than attentive listening. Managers have to show they have heard what people have said because interpreting body language is harder via a screen than in person. The importance of asking questions and being receptive to feedback have never been more important.
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5. Mixing the tech
The most quoted complaint today is the never-ending Zoom meetings. The research on that is just starting to emerge and we are all familiar with the terms Brain Fog, Zoombie Syndrome, and so on. We don’t even need academic results to understand what people are saying and that we recognise the symptoms. The old-fashioned voice call is making a comeback as people try and overcome relentless online communication.
Leaders will have to learn how to manage tech and new ways of doing things such as online whiteboarding and other collaborative tools. Technological developments are hitting the market to meet the needs of the new workplace pace. Managers are going to have to invest time and money to work out what best suits their organisation needs.
6. Psychological security
Studies show that 25% of workers are ready to leave their current organisations for the right opportunity in what is being called the Great Resignation. Employee retention is also going to become a major leadership driver. The job market is buoyant and processes are moving faster than pre-COVID. Developing a reputation as an “employee-first” and walking the talk should be a top priority.
Hybrid Management skill-set
The transfer of organizations and their managers into a hybrid working environment could create complex challenges for some businesses. Any organisation wishing to develop the skills of their managers and supervisors leaders should focus on
- Self-awareness around their own communication and leadership style and self-care needs.
- Communication – specifically listening, asking the right questions and getting feedback
- Initiating and managing empathetic questions around well-being and identifying signs of poor mental health and stress in a remote/hybrid work environment.
- Managing conflict and prioritisation
Hybrid workplaces need inclusive leadership to not only survive but to thrive. Organisations that fail to understand this will struggle.
Leadership skills can be honed and learned with the help of a Career Coach.