We recently hosted a roundtable discussion on Building Authentic Sales Relationships in a Hybrid Virtual/In-Person Tech Industry. Additionally, we continue to do a great deal of executive coaching for leaders in public health, tech and other fields. There are several unique challenges leaders are facing in supporting their people right now due to the hybrid nature of work and offer these best practices for consideration.
FOSTER MINDFULNESS IN YOURSELF AND EMPLOYEES
This has been a best practice at work for a while but is increasingly important when folks are approaching burnout, distracted from all sides and stuck in a cycle with too many meetings. Mindfulness is an incredibly important practice for leaders. It isn’t merely starting to meditate. It’s about supporting a proactive and strategic mindset instead of a reactive one, being truly present at meetings, and meeting people where they are. Perhaps above all, mindful leadership is acknowledging and supporting your boundaries and the boundaries of your employees.
BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT HOW YOU CONNECT WITH YOUR TEAM
Not every call has to be a video call. Phone calls can feel like a refreshing change and can be a better medium for certain types of calls. Pay attention to how your employees are feeling and ask them for their preferences. While video calls are helpful when you want to get to know someone, put a face to a name and get the benefit of non-verbal communication, phone calls also have their advantages. For example, on a phone call, participants won’t be distracted by their own image on the screen and can better focus on the content of the conversation. Additionally, phone calls offer a bit of movement freedom, allowing folks an opportunity to turn the meeting into a walking meeting. This is good for body, heart and mind!
EXPERIMENT WITH NEW WAYS FOR TEAM BUILDING
Team building used to show up in a few common forms - the welcome lunch for new employees, the occasional happy hours or Friday Pizzas, and the annual all-company retreat. All these activities typically asked employees to leave their desks to participate, and therefore cost the company a significant amount of worktime. Today, many offices remain completely or at least partially virtual. Time feels like it’s even more precious than it was before, and virtual or hybrid events can feel like longer and sub-par experiences.
Stop waiting for things to return to the way they were and stop preferencing in-person folks. Experiment with alternatives to the old ways of team building. There’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution, so aim for variety. Perhaps your Welcome Lunches become virtual coffees. Perhaps you offer employees an opportunity to participate in an activity local to them and then share stories with the team later. Brainstorm with your team for ideas, too! They’ll certainly have ideas for how to engage them!
FIND WAYS TO DEBRIEF AND COACH YOUR TEAM MEMBERS
In the days of dominantly in-person work, leaders could observe their team members in action, picking up on non-verbal cues, noticing the impact of their actions in the moment, and more. Then, they had the opportunities between meetings and in ad hoc “hey, do you have a minute?” moments to offer coaching, encouragement, and advice. For folks who travel for work, these moments are often immediately after the big client meeting on the way to the airport or while waiting for a flight.
In the virtual and hybrid worlds, these moments are much fewer and farther between. You may feel like you are accessible to your team because you told them you have an “open door policy,” but it’s easy for people to feel isolated or like they’re a burden if they have to ask for unscheduled time. How do you fight against this trend? Consider establishing “Office Hours” during which time you encourage your employees to interrupt you with anything. Plan a mid-day walk, grab your phone, and do ad hoc check-ins. Come up with a routine that serves you and your team and stick to it.
As the pandemic becomes endemic, we have to consider new ways of working. Employees and leaders want to hold onto some of the flexibility and autonomy that comes with working virtually, but they also want to feel connected to and valued by their organizations.
What best practices can you share for leading today?
Kara Davidson and Stephanie Judd are the founders of Wolf & Heron, a leadership development firm that leverages expertise in social psychology, influence, and facilitation to develop leaders who can effectively engage and inspire others. We offer customized, people-focused programs, such as corporate training, public workshops, and executive coaching. Our clients transcend organizational profiles; we work with Fortune 100 companies to startups, small non-profits to large educational institutions. Our founders, Kara Davidson and Stephanie Judd, have over 40 years of combined experience developing and delivering solutions that are guaranteed to inspire.