From Management to Leadership
At Clearword we are massive fan of modern leadership techniques. These are techniques centred around the employee and their success.
For a company to become hybrid-first, they must understand that there is no one-size-fits-all. Instead they must start shifting their more traditional management techniques towards modern leadership.
This post is aimed at providing a perspective on what modern leadership entails and how modern leadership adapts to the ever-growing need to support our hybrid teams. What this post is NOT, is a comparison between traditional management and modern leadership.
1. Be Supportive
Working remotely can be stressful for many. Your job as a modern leader is to make sure to embrace the toolsets your teams are using, and make sure you show up to meetings ready to support, not reprimand.
Some people are quite angry about returning to work. Talk to them about it, allow them to feel.
Your job is really no longer to affirm yourself as an official authority figure, but rather be an authoritative individual. Don't seek control and supervision, but build trust and confidence. If you must do so by adapting your leadership skills and get further training so you can understand what your teams are doing or the tools they use, then by all means we strongly encourage you to do so, as upskilling is common in successful leaders.
Modern style leadership is about figuring out how to turn targets into vision. How to manage expectations and to be honest clear and really there for each individual.
For instance, millennials expect more than just being told what to do; they expect a different style of leadership; they also need to know why it is important for them to follow through on that task or project. They prefer managers who can explain things clearly so they understand exactly what needs to happen next. This helps them feel empowered as well as confident about taking ownership over projects.
If you're not communicating effectively with millennial employees, then you may find yourself losing out on valuable talent.
2. Manage Expectations
Discuss with your teams, and allow them to experiment and try new products and techniques. Instead of telling your team what the communication protocols are, discuss it with each individual team. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all.
Will you have to work a little more? Yes. Will your team be much more confident in your leadership qualities and management styles, thus your ability to really support them? Absolutely.
If you worry about their working hours or how they will be productive, talk to them about it. Effective leadership is not about forcing your way, but inspiring. Allowing them to control their schedule, flexibility and life-balance is an incredibly powerful motivator. Yes sometimes compromises will be necessary but that's also ok.
3. No to Office-First Politics
It has been shown that working remotely has many perks. One of the perks it doesn't have is career advancement. Many companies fall to the proximity bias. Meaning: The people in the office are more likely to get promoted because they are... "seen".
As a leader, you can't tolerate and encourage talking about work in a way that mistakenly excludes remote colleagues. Your job is to squash (positively) proximity bias.
4. Embrace Cultural Differences
As you embrace hybrid-first, you will realise that you can start knocking down geographical talent barriers. With an ever growing company spread, you will encounter new cultures, new ways of thinking. Embracing different cultures means you will be able to look at, and solving problems differently.
Your job as modern leaders is to embrace and cultivate this multi-cultural diversity. You must intentionally go out of your comfort zone to try and understand how other people work to then adapt your workflows accordingly.
This level of empathy is the type of empathy you will need to become a true hybrid-first leader. Diversity will not only be about the diverse people in the company, but will give you a whole new perspective and observational skillset.
5. Planning for Flexibility
A hybrid-first work model means people will work from places where the distractions are vastly different than an office setting.
Working from home might involve having to step out for children, or the delivery person. Working from a café might involve the internet going down.
The point is working remotely can be frustrating if flexibility hasn't been planned for, and if the expectations haven't been set beforehand.
6. Pay Attention
In our previous post, we briefly described the new "Hybrid Paradox". This happens because in-person meetings are much less frequent, but people skills are more important than ever.
As a remote leader, you will have to try and stay in touch with your teams in a non-distracting way. For instance, with the right toolset, you can show up to a meeting informed. You have access to what your teams have been working on. You can see where they are stuck. Promote a culture of positive meetings, where people will be comfortable expressing discontent.
From this, you must observe if individual behaviour changes. If you notice a change, address it. Help them through their issues. If you are not sure how to proceed, we'd recommend having a look at ways leaders can support employees mental health and if you have time reading Managing Humans by Michael Lopp.
7. Deep Personal Introspection
This is the most uncomfortable for everyone. In order to be supportive, impartial, and inclusive, you will need to reduce your personal biases. Furthermore, you will need to put aside your personal and professional preferences.
To reduce your personal biases, you need to understand what they are. For this you will need to put ANY EGO you might have aside.
Ask for Feedback. As you have been cultivating an honest and transparent culture of colleagues happy to express their discontent in a constructive and positive manner, it's time to put that to test.
Considering only about 10-15% of people are self-aware, we recommend you simply go ahead and ask your teams for feedback. And ask often. Keep in mind that everyone fights their own battles. When the feedback comes back, should it not be constructive, you will need to address it. You will need to address it kindly, and with respect.
Once you learn to use this feedback constructively and not react defensively (And there is a personal transition period), your team will thank you.
They will be more satisfied, stay longer, and be more productive.