Three Tips To Lead Hybrid Teams

Nacho is CEO of BairesDev, a leading nearshore tech solutions company, and General Partner at BDev Ventures, a VC fund for B2B businesses.

One of the hottest discussions in many businesses today revolves around remote work. As things seem to return to normal after the pandemic, there are opposing opinions about this work model.

On the one hand, there’s a considerable amount of people (including business owners, executives and employees) who want to go back to the office. On the other side, there’s a significant group of people who want to keep working remotely, at least partially. Both sides have strong opinions and diverse needs, causing friction that’s reshaping the business landscape.

Given this clash, a lot of companies are considering a third option. Instead of going all-in with a fully in-house team or a fully remote team, businesses are experimenting with a hybrid approach. Having people working at the office and from home allows for a different dynamic and offers a possibility to keep everyone happy.

The Greatest Challenge With Hybrid Teams

Using hybrid teams comes with a unique set of challenges, including how to best define who works remotely and when they do so, among other concerns. However, I’d argue that the greatest challenge when using this approach is managing and leading two seemingly divided teams.

As long as you know how to implement, conduct and lead your hybrid teams, then adopting a hybrid approach does not mean you’ll end up with two teams that are siloed from one another. In my experience leading hybrid teams for more than a decade, the following three tips are essential to take full advantage of this model.

1. Pay attention to details when managing remote people.

While I don’t agree that managing people remotely is close to impossible, the reality is that leading people through a screen and a mic isn’t the same as having them available face to face. So, there might be situations where reading a remote worker’s reaction or true feeling towards particular issues is difficult.

Our face-to-face conversations are filled with small gestures, voice changes, postures and other nonverbal cues. All of this informs the people around us about the true meaning of what we say. Getting that information through the screen may seem impossible, but it isn’t.

There are two keys here. First, leaders in a hybrid world should remain observant of the little nuances that are slightly detectable in a video call. Most importantly, they need to strike a balance between group discussions and one-on-one meetings that provide them with a better understanding of what their teams are going through. This way, you’ll be more in touch with your remote team members’ needs and wants, establishing a trust bond and a deeper connection.

2. Leverage the hybrid model for increased resilience.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the pandemic, but one of the most relevant regards preparation due to how quickly and unexpectedly a major disruption can appear. That’s why so many professionals are talking about resilience and flexibility. These are two of the qualities any modern company needs in order to face unexpected issues that may be waiting down the road.

It became clear that companies that already had resilient processes fared the pandemic better than those that didn’t. For example, at BairesDev, we’ve worked with distributed teams and a hybrid approach ever since our foundation. This allowed us to quickly adjust our operations to a fully remote model when governments started issuing stay-at-home orders in response to Covid-19.

Having a hybrid approach can better prepare for the crises that will come. So, use any calmer time to prepare your people for those potential disruptions. Establish communication protocols, develop your cloud-based infrastructure, define emergency processes—basically, do everything in your power to prepare your team for remote operations.

In a world threatened by climate change, cyberattacks, wars and health crises, having your whole team prepared to switch gears in an instant and keep going can be a true game-changer and add a competitive advantage that will help you lead better in case of an emergency.

3. Provide leeway for your remote employees (but establish central leadership).

When managing hybrid teams, trust your remote employees with enough autonomy for them to make quick decisions and keep moving forward. But, also keep those individual actions contained to prevent your business from becoming unmanageable chaos.

For that, establish a centralized leadership. Here, that means defining a clear vision and goal for everything you do and combining that with measurement systems, proper key performance indicators (KPIs) and constant communication.

In other words, make sure that everyone in your organization (both in-house and remotely) can make their own decisions and manage themselves on a more granular level. Naturally, your KPIs, predefined goals and overall strategy will provide everyone on your team with the necessary framework to do their jobs. In the meantime, regular communication will let you know that your team is meeting its goals on time.

Leading hybrid teams isn’t precisely easy. Yet, as the hybrid model establishes itself as the best approach for the world we’re living in, developing better ways to manage in-house and offsite employees is becoming more essential by the minute. These tips will put you on the right track and help you enhance your leadership style to better fit this model.

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