The Evolution of Leadership: From Workplace to Remote to Hybrid
Most businesses were caught off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing executives to rethink their ability to adapt to disaster and uncertainty. Many firms had already started working on digital transformation, hiring remote workers or contractors, and taking other initiatives to increase organizational agility before the pandemic. On the other hand, few were prepared to deal with the seismic shift that occurred in the economic world in 2020.
Leaders who successfully navigated the crisis don't want to be caught off guard again, which is why 60% of companies anticipate increasing their investment in the tools and training required for hybrid work. Executives in various businesses have recognized that when people work remotely, they may still be productive—in some cases, teams are even more productive than before the pandemic. At the same time, many leaders aren't ready to give up their positions entirely. It takes lots of skill and courage to make the uneasy shift.
A Change in the Workplace is a Change in Leadership
When the epidemic struck, employees went from office to their homes, spending the day with their spouses and children rather than coworkers. As a result, the line between work and home has become increasingly blurred, if not wholly obliterated in many circumstances. As strong leaders acknowledged, traditional deadlines became more fluid, and office meetings became less formal due to the conditions.
The way work is done in the future will be different, and one rippling effect can be observed in office space. Because many CEOs see that offering flexibility to employees benefits both sides, the typical 9-to-5 workweek and central office are becoming relics. Employees have more autonomy over both their work and personal life. Employee productivity and job satisfaction have increased, and the company's office real estate costs have decreased.
The Dynamics of Influence and Communication
A crucial leadership attribute that has gained traction during the pandemic is the capacity to influence and communicate at all levels of the company using a variety of styles and techniques. Before Covid19, everyone shared the same office space. It was easy to call for a meeting. Gathering teams for alignment and feedback was just a few feet away. However, post the pandemic era, and due to remote working, leaders had to rely heavily on technology for communication and influence.
Therefore, navigating new technologies and using them to their benefit is one of today's essentials. However, the lack of face-to-face communication resulting from shifting to a remote workforce has indeed impacted teamwork, culture building, and communication. Hence, In a hybrid force, leaders need to have the capacity to align goals, communicate, provide feedback, influence teamwork during office days.
A Shift in Empathy
Empathizing with employees has always been a leadership requirement. Training workshops, books, coaches, and consultants have always advised leaders to practice empathy with their teams. Yet, when moving to a remote work setting, the need for empathy evolved and took a different form. Some employees worked for much longer hours during the permanent remote setting and suffered burnout. Others suffered the inability to communicate through technology and missed face-to-face interaction, which led to a drop in communication and misunderstandings.
On the contrary, some others found comfort in the lower levels of communication and resorted to disappearing. Moreover, some employees suffered burnout, while more were unable to balance family and work as the boundaries at home almost disappeared. A strong leader needed to elevate and adapt his levels of empathy to give his followers their needs. In a hybrid setting, another shift in empathy needs to occur as leaders need to know what works best for each employee in which environment. Some might seek a face-to-face setting to discuss specific issues, while others prefer the office to mingle and bond with their colleagues. It's part of the leader's role to know and empathize accordingly to provide for their needs.
A Change in Feedback and Appraisals
First and foremost, leaders must accept that there will be fewer random feedback opportunities. Feedback needs to be more deliberate. Leaders must plan structured, goal-oriented feedback sessions. Furthermore, while giving feedback at the moment is usually encouraged, leaders of hybrid workers need a framework for selecting whether to give virtual feedback right away or wait until the next in-person meeting. Second, detecting a performance issue (a prerequisite for feedback) is more complicated because there are fewer opportunities to watch people in a virtual setting. Managers must put in more effort to understand what is impeding excellent performance.
Performance assessment is taught alongside (or before) feedback and coaching skills training in the best learning organizations. An impactful way to give and structure feedback is LIFO Orientation2 Strengths feedback Charts.
LIFO Orientation version of feedback is centered on the strengths one sees in himself and reinforced by how others view those strengths in relationship to them. This version of feedback is important because it uses three strategies:
- Confirming Strategy: which helps individuals understand and appreciate their own unique strengths, values, and goals which helps them build confidence and self-esteem
- Extending Strategy: Use the perspectives and strengths of an individual's least preferred orientations for greater resourcefulness in their approach towards people and problems
- Moderating Strategy: Avoid individuals’ overuse of most preferred strengths to the point where they waste time and alienate others. The LIFO Orientation’s Strengths feedback version is practical and beneficial, hence LIFO Orientation provides it as an EFeedback charts digital tool. The fact that the tool is digital makes it easy to use at any time, place, and pace. Moreover, it makes it easy to keep supporting teams through their development over an extended period of time
Therefore, the Efeedback Strengths-Based LIFO Orientation Charts is an ideal tool for Hybrid leadership as it helps leaders provide feedback in whatever setting they use.
Hybrid is a viable option. A way of life. And if that truth clashes with a leader's performance mindset, it poses a problem. However, without special training and effort, it will be simple for leaders to transfer their biases about how work should be done into the virtual or hybrid environment.
1LinkedIn, 13 May 2020, Jacob Morgan, The Evolution of Leaders: What Worked In the Past Won’t work in the Future, Accessed 27 January 2022, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/evolution-leaders-what-worked-past-wont-work-future-jacob-morgan/
Forbes, 23 Jun 2021, Ashu Goel, The Pandemic Dramatically Changed Corporate Leadership’s Traits, Accessed 27 Jan 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2021/06/23/the-pandemic-dramatically-changed-corporate-leaderships-traits/?sh=5d05ea517b8e
Training Industry, 30 Jul 2021, Angela Lane and Sergey Gorbatov, Building the Critical Skills leaders Need to make
Hybrid work..work!, Accessed 27 Jan 2022, https://trainingindustry.com/articles/leadership/building-the-critical-skills-leaders-need-to-make-hybrid-work-work/
2Accessed 21 Feb 2022, https://lifo.bconglobal.com/features/e-feedback-chart
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