Leadership Behaviors that Drive High-Performance in a Hybrid Workplace

August 2021 | By Brian Cole, Ph.D.

According to the 2021 Annual Report from the World Trend Index, 73% of employees want flexible remote work options to be maintained, even after the pandemic has passed us by. Furthermore, 66% of leaders have considered redesigning office spaces for hybrid work.mature-man-doing-a-business-video-call-at-home-picture-id1332111900

You’ve probably heard this term thrown around. If you google it, you’ll be overwhelmed by half a billion results, all with different answers. The majority are blogs and listicles that spell out the best office setup, or what tech to use, or how to maintain the wellbeing of your employees in a hybrid environment… Crucial, but relatively short-term aspects of hybrid work.

It’s all well and good to have the tech and the people on board, but sustaining this kind of work environment takes intentional, long-view planning. Being successful and sustainable in a hybrid world is truly owed to company culture. So how do you go about shaping this culture and making it last? One way to focus those efforts is through the lens of Five Leadership BehaviorsSM.

Five Leadership BehaviorsSM

  1. Set clear expectations. Have clear, ongoing discussions with your employees about scheduling, accommodations, and the business case for hybrid work. It’s critically important to sequence work in this environment: Which tasks require active face-to-face collaboration, and which require reflection or research, and can be relegated to time spent at home? Firmly setting these defined expectations is critical, but flexibility is still vitally important. For many leaders, goals haven’t changed, but the ways to reach them and the tools to use have shifted considerably.
  2. Observe performance. You can’t know how well your people are doing unless you’re looking. That may seem more difficult when not everyone is in the office, but there are ways to observe performance directly or indirectly, even remotely. To begin, simply ask questions. What types of work are easier in-office or at home? What trends in performance/productivity do I see when people are working in the office or remotely? How engaged/participative are people in meetings? If there is a difference, what is contributing to the difference?
  3. Remove barriers. Another question to ask on a regular basis is “how can I remove barriers to your work?” What obstacles do you foresee impacting remote work exclusively? What hurdles are present when working in the office? Know how to support that above mentioned structure and remove those barriers to maximize engagement and performance.
  4. Seek feedback opportunities. Feedback is still just as critical as it’s ever been, and opportunities for it aren’t just one-way in the modern world. What are the performance trends you are seeing in-person vs. remote, and how does that affect this whole grand hybrid experiment? Leaders are used to giving employees positive or constructive feedback, but equally important are those moments when you can gain feedback from employees. Ask them about your effectiveness in this new environment and how well you’re role-modeling the new hybrid work culture.
  5. Coaching for development. This one may be the hardest. It includes conducting regular one-on-one meetings, that will be critical to ensuring the effectiveness of this brave new culture. Discuss those critical, hybrid environment skills—many are the same as usual, but may need some tweaking or additional focus. Encourage direct reports to be proactive and give them the confidence to make decisions. Perhaps the most vital piece of this behavior is to identify new and different skills needed to sustain success in a hybrid environment. Don’t pile all of the focus on simply transitioning to the new environment, as that environment is constantly shifting.

Assessing Performance

Now, with all that in mind, how do you truly measure individual performance in a hybrid work environment? One common concern is ensuring performance evaluations remain fair, in spite of a potential bias toward those working in-office. Yet, here’s an opportunity to use the new hybrid environment to further validate that you’re using objective goals, data, and criteria for your performance evaluations. After all, regular review of objective performance data helps leaders in innumerable ways.

Be conscious of that potential bias. Use that knowledge to critically assess your own assessments; Another spot where the Five Leadership Behaviors come in handy. Regularly observe performance, give and solicit feedback, and continue to coach for development, and fair performance evaluations will follow.

To put it simply, consistently demonstrating and adapting the 5 Leadership Behaviors to a hybrid environment while objectively and fairly assessing employee performance will help in creating a successful hybrid work environment. Leading in the Hybrid world doesn’t always require new tools, but using existing tools in new ways is the key to success.

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Topics: Leading Remote Teams, Managing Remotely

Brian Cole, Ph.D.

Written by Brian Cole, Ph.D.