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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Can You Lead a Great Team in a Hybrid or Remote Environment?

The answer is yes. But it takes strong leaders who communicate well for remote and hybrid teams to flourish.

Some people love the energy of working around other people. For those people to be most productive and happy, they need to be in the office, or have opportunities to be around others. Some people need the organization and structure of going to an office every day to get in the work mindset, so that they are productive during working hours.

For example, many people thrive in sales because they love the face-to-face contact they have with their customers. They get energy from being around other people.

Other people are more focused and claim to be more productive when working away from the office. They love not having the distractions and drama of external conversations. They are better able to get the results they want working in the location and during the times of their choosing.

Still others do well with a mix of remote and in-person interactions. They can avoid some of the commuting costs and the extra time it takes to get to an office location by working remotely a few days a week.

So how does an organization manage the individual personality work types as well as work requirements in the hybrid work world?

Building a team starts with leadership, regardless of where the team members are located. Great leaders know that they must infuse their people a sense of purpose in the work they are doing. They quickly establish a sense of shared identity between the people and the organization, and they create opportunities for relationships to flourish while working toward common goals.

This all requires leadership. During the height of the virus crisis, some organizations told people to work from home or an alternate location without defining the results that were expected. In an effort to keep their employees and be supportive, some leaders, not knowing what to do, did nothing.

What we have learned over the past few years is that dealing with the virus is not going away, so leaders need to make sure their people are equipped with the skills and tools they need to be productive. Then the leaders need to hold people accountable.

To help people be productive, supervisors need an understanding of their people’s needs, intentions, capabilities, strengths, and personalities.

Leaders can start by asking the right questions.

Questions to ask team members might include:

Where do you find you work the best?

Do you feel more energized or depleted by the people you work with?

What is the best way for us to give you feedback about your work and projects?

What do you need, in terms of tools, training, or technology that will make you more productive, regardless of where you work?

How can I help you be more productive?

What is your leadership doing that gets in the way of you working to your best potential?

What kinds of accountability work best for you?

Leaders and managers need to listen.

Once they accumulate feedback from their employees on how and where they like to work, whether in the remote and hybrid work environment, they need to act.

The best companies have clear policies about working remotely, and those policies apply to everyone.

Some organizations do not have remote work opportunities, and some jobs do not lend themselves to remote work. Jobs and those with remote work options should be clearly delineated.

In today’s competitive job environment, we know that salary attracts people to a job, benefits entice people to the organization, and flexibility and great leadership keeps employees. Being flexible while being fair is a long-standing challenge more difficult by lack of in-person contact. Leaders and managers must make sure that they are providing the right, fair leadership to all their employees, regardless of where they work.

Leaders and managers need to be careful not to paint all jobs and all employees with the same brush. We cannot make assumptions based on our own preferences or our own experiences. Not everyone wants to work remotely. Not everyone wants to stay at home. What might be right for one employee now may need to change as responsibilities shift later.

The best organizations are those with fair and consistent policies that allow for some flexibility based on individual circumstances. This sounds counter-intuitive, but this is where empowered leadership is necessary.

Leaders need to remember that they are leading individuals, not merely demographics, who each have their own perspectives and needs for maximum effectiveness.


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