Whether fully virtual or hybrid, whether focused on the team, division, or organizational levels, the Threefold Path for High-Performance Teams is based on principles of shared responsibility, engagement, connection, and productivity.
The first path includes making team decisions based on
- the work to be done and how interdependent different job roles are,
- the best environments to do which types of work (which may be different for different people),
- leveraging social capital and
- facilitating clarity, providing ongoing employee support, AND managing for results so that productivity and other Key Performance Indicators are met.
This ALL must happen in both hybrid and Remote Forward work environments, with more structure and planning needed when hybrid, since there are more moving parts. People are in multiple places at different times. Design the team’s work and connection to each other and the organization both formally and informally because the network is the workplace regardless of where people are, and work is social, requiring communication to move forward.
Document primary communication agreements collaboratively with the team. You will be following the first path of developing the team by engaging them in decisions that affect how they get work done and progress in their careers. The Virtual Team Leader and teamwork within the parameters and boundaries of the organization, but each team benefits when they set clear communication agreements, accountabilities, information-sharing, and role descriptions that include collaboration protocols and which tools to use for what.
Keep it as simple as possible. Who needs to communicate with Whom about Who through what Tool, who else needs to be involved or informed, and when?
Simple clarity develops trust and confidence –
Keep the mechanics SIMPLE and standardized with the goal to connect team members to
-the customer’s perspective if not the customer,
-the strategic priorities, and
-the rest of the organization.
The VTL benefits by giving some attention to cross-organizational connections, forge formal and informal connections. Team members will follow the leader’s example and find that balancing a range of intentionally creating and supporting cross-organizational communication, reigniting networking and collaboration. Be careful about over-structuring informal connections. Encourage reaching out without becoming so highly structured that informal networks begin to feel like orchestrated events and “big brother or sister” oversight. So…
In finishing out the first path of Developing your virtual team’s agreements and new habits and introducing the 2nd path of Support, lean into virtual, both synchronous and asynchronously. The network is the workplace even when some team members “go to an office”. Develop your team’s habits and behaviors to realize that everyone works together virtually regardless of location and time. Performance management and coaching are key to keeping everyone on track and feeling confident. In fact, the employee experience is primarily determined by his or her relationship with the manager. The VTL is the only person who can lead this ongoing high-trust relationship of support and employee growth. The social component, the conversations that happen drives connection on a hybrid or virtual team. Email and project management updates are insufficient for virtual teams. As a VTL, look for those conversations, asynchronous and live, that should be happening to ensure an engaging experience for all employees.
If you don’t, VTLs and organizational leaders are unintentionally creating an INCLUSION and EXCLUSION problem. When people are working in a hybrid workplace, the situation introduces an unconscious bias, natural to our human brain but a diversity challenge that often creates two classes of citizens – remote and co-located. Neuroscientist David Rock has proven that our caveman’s brain pays attention to those we see and know are nearby – it’s a safety-first mentality. Called Distance Bias, it can be attended to but is a guaranteed problem in a hybrid workplace. It’s hard to be fully engaged when you feel like an outsider or to perform at your best when you’re not operating from the latest scope requirements.
The 2nd path is the path of support, and it has changed because of the pandemic. The work-from-home workplace of 2020 has raised the bar on the importance of team leaders authentically considering their team members’ well-being and offering personal support when possible, checking in regularly. The Next Normal includes workers who are distant and local, opening the possibility of the distant employees being, quite literally, “out of sight, out of mind.” To eliminate this, a strong step is to actively connect team members to each other AND to the rest of the organization, taking the VTL out of the middle. Scout for connections for your team members – task force opportunities, a potential mentor or key leader who should know about your team member, a corporate volunteering opportunity that brings career exposure to your team….
And do little things to show virtual workers are as valued as in-office employees. For example, send physical care and swag bags. Make them physical AND digital to reinforce belongingness and appreciation, and to celebrate together.
This brings me to the 3rd path for VTLs to have High-Performance Hybrid Teams – Deliver Results and Celebrate….
It’s deflating to have a win with no one to virtually high-five or do the happy dance with. Frequent, ongoing celebrations of team members and the team always matter, but especially when everyone is working together – apart.
In the Hybrid Workplace, how we connect around work and play goes a long way to keep a company connected, engaged, and productive. As Peter Drucker advised decades ago, work is social. Emphasizing the social connections at work is the business of work, especially so when everyone isn’t in the same place at the same time. Here to stay, have some fun figuring out how to do it “right” in your organization.
At The SMART Workplace, we can facilitate all aspects of these strategic and operational decision-making processes, from strategic facilitation to help with templates, structural guidelines, and best practices. We can be involved with your change team or be your guide on the side, coaching HR, Facilities, IT, and change leaders to operationalize the transformation to a hybrid workplace.
Or if you simply need training, group coaching, or an inspirational and practical webinar or keynote, be in touch!
For More About Trina Hoefling and The SMART Workplace
Trina Hoefling https://www.linkedin.com/in/trinahoefling/
Author, Working Virtually: Transforming the Mobile Workplace, 2nd Edition
Thought Leadership and Knowledge Center, www.TheSmartWorkplace.com
Trina’s website, www.TrinaHoefling.com