The 3 Mind Shifts (and 4 Skills) to Effectively Lead Hybrid Teams

John Hester


Hybrid teams are nothing new. Pre-COVID, many hybrid virtual teams existed. Some team members worked from the office full time, some worked from home or from the road full time, and others did a mix of the two. So what’s so different as we look ahead to work in the future?

What’s different is the sheer volume of people who are looking to work either full time or part time from home. One of the lessons we’ve learned from the grand global experiment is that both individuals and organizations can be far more productive when people work from home at least part time.

To be effective hybrid team leaders in today’s world, we need to adopt three fresh mind shifts and four skills to guide our team members as we embrace the new future of work.

The 3 Mind Shifts

  1. Remote first. Whatever we do as leaders, we must think about the potential impact on remote team members. Among other things, this means all meetings should be virtual. No more having some of the team in a conference room while others dial in. Make everyone connect remotely.
  2. Recognize and mitigate proximity bias. We naturally favor those team members who are physically around us on a regular basis. This issue existed before the pandemic. Remote team members often felt left out of new projects or growth opportunities.
  3. Continually experiment and learn. We saw this happening in abundance throughout the last year and a half. Let’s keep trying new things and learn from the experience.

The 4 Skills

  1. Make the implicit explicit. Leaders must express their expectations to their people clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt. What are the core hours the leader expects everyone to be available? What are the expectations if the leader will be away from their computer during core hours? What are the expected response times for chat and email? These are just a few of the things that need to be made explicit.
  2. Foster community. Many teams did this well during the pandemic. Pre pandemic you rarely saw remote team members on camera and things like virtual coffees and happy hours were unheard of. Teams have learned to be creative in the way they have fun and celebrate virtually. We need to learn from those experiences and continue to make this a priority.
  3. Promote well-being. Well-being was and will continue to be an important issue in our hybrid teams. As leaders, we need to pay attention to our own well-being and promote activities that will encourage others to do the same.
  4. Ensure hybrid meetings are effective and engaging. We are meeting way too much and many of these meetings are an ineffective use of our time. As leaders, we need to plan our hybrid meetings so that they are engaging. We should meet to discuss, collaborate, and do the work of the team—not just present information. Every meeting should have a clear purpose and agenda. Keep them short and end at least 10 minutes before the hour or half hour to provide time for employees to have a break between meetings.

We have learned a lot from the worldwide work-from-home experiment that is COVID. Now we need to take these lessons and apply them to our work. The future won’t wait!

Editor’s Note: Would you like to learn more about successfully leading in a hybrid work environment? Join The Ken Blanchard Companies for a free webinar series designed for leadership, learning, and talent development professionals looking to upskill their leaders for a new world of work. Learn more here.


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