Working with leaders and organisations across a cross-section of industries throughout the global pandemic, we have captured five leadership behaviours which consistently rise to the top for exceptional leaders in a hybrid working environment.
Whilst this blog was originally written during lockdown, as we transition to a consistent state of hybrid working, it’s time to refresh!
Let’s jump into it …
Leadership Behaviour 1
In times of consistent change, employees may experience heightened levels of sensitivity; this needs heightened levels of empathy from leaders. And it’s not just about work and deadlines, it’s also about other factors that (again) form part of your teams’ lives.
As a leader, flex your empathy muscle by showing your human side – seek to understand what’s happening for your team, show vulnerability and kindness, and ensure you build in a level of humour and fun (there are so many good memes and GIFs to share!)
Leadership Behaviour 2
Here, we’re talking regular, consistent conversations – and being available for the ad hoc connection! Not everything needs to be on Zoom or Teams, when a phone call is enough.
We have witnessed significant ‘video-fatigue’ over the past 18 months, so look for other ways to connect that include phone calls (old-fashioned but it still works!), messaging and collaboration platforms such as MS Teams, Trello or Slack. Another great tool to use is the ‘Hide Self’ view in Zoom – our brains aren’t built to look at an image of ourselves in the corner of our vision for hours on end.
And it’s not just about work-related conversations. Recreating the ‘water cooler’ informal chat is essential. Some of our clients have adopted Trivia Fridays (platforms like Kahoot or Mentimeter are great for this), Team Room Tuesdays (everyone jump on for 15 minutes with a cuppa and talk anything that’s not work related) or an MS Teams Channel dedicated to sharing lockdown activities. A perfect way to start building your team’s culture of creativity!
Leadership Behaviour 3
Here, you’re intentionally seeking out opportunities to understand your employees, who need more support than others, and who might be at risk of burning out. In a virtual world, this is paying attention to the subtle queues in someone’s voice or tone of messages or emails.
There are some amazing platforms that integrate communication platforms, evidence-based research and artificial intelligence, to give line of sight to leaders and organisations on the wellbeing of their employees – preventing burn out before it happens. One of our favourites is Pioneera.
Leadership Behaviour 4
Empowering your team
You don’t have the time or oversight to micromanage; nor do you want to in a hybrid environment! Whether it’s at the task level, project or program level, it’s time to delegate and empower your employees. This is time to ask/coach, not to tell/direct.
As Brené Brown says, ‘clear is kind, unclear is unkind’. Collaborate with your team members to set clear SMART goals, or OKRs, and encourage your employees to be intentional on how they set their priorities when working from home.
Leadership Behaviour 5
The old saying of ‘you need to give yourself oxygen, before you can give it to others’ has never been more true during these constantly evolving times of change. Whether it’s getting a good night’s sleep, exercise, meditation, taking intentional breaks from the computer or eating healthily, these all add up to a healthier you, to enable you to be a healthier, exceptional leader.
Self-care enables each of the above – being adaptive to the individual needs of each employee who is working from home (with or without home schooling), empowering employees to potentially set their own work hours to get their work done and self-care activities, with consistent connection and empathy to minimise burnout and the need for employees to always feel ‘on’.
None of these behaviours sit in isolation; it’s the interplay of each, with your own authentic leadership style, that enable a leader to shift from effective leadership, to exceptional leadership during lockdown.
Is this all new?
Are these ‘exceptional leadership’ behaviours different to non-pandemic or hybrid working times? I would argue not. However during times of uncertainty and lockdowns, the consistent and authentic ‘living’ of these leadership behaviours are a must have, not a nice to have.
The main body of the original article first appeared in Hunter Headline on Monday 23 August 2021.