Many conversations with my clients this month have focused on this question as leaders around the world build teams and businesses within an evolving, hybrid working environment.  There is no blueprint; a tight labour market; balance sheets overburdened with debt due to the pandemic, a sense of urgency everywhere, and a workforce which is extremely reticent (role allowing), to return to the office full time.   

So, no pressure then…

You’d expect me to say that at the heart of any great hybrid leader has to be exquisite communication skills…..but it’s true.  Leadership is a relationship business, which means it is a communications business.  The challenge is, in a hybrid working world… what is it that we need to strengthen our communication skills to be able to do?  Well, here’s 5 of my favourites…

  • Build Trust: Any healthy relationship is based on trust; otherwise, it’s not a healthy relationship.  If we’re going to meaningfully move the needle on trust, then it starts with giving others our full attention.  So, put down the device, turn on the camera, move your phone to one side and start giving others your full and undivided attention… for more than just a few seconds or minutes.  This muscle group is unbelievably out of shape, and it will take some meaningful work to start to strengthen.  Always remember, if we appear distracted, what we’re really saying to others is clear and simple: “you and this conversation are not worth my full attention”.  Listen deeply, without agenda, with fascination and curiosity.  Again, easy to write; most people don’t do this.  Ego, pride, shame get in the way and we just can’t help ourselves; we stop listening, start talking… and keep going. 

  • Play An Actively Involved Part In Developing Your Teams’ Skills: Irrespective of seniority, we all need to continually learn, practice, play and evolve new strengths.  We shouldn’t abdicate our responsibility in the form of simply booking them on a training programme and passing the ball to the learning and development department.  If each member of your team (and theirs) does not have a personal development plan, then they need one… and fast!

  • Empower Others To Own And Be Accountable For More:  That doesn’t mean ‘dump more on your team’… it means, that if you’ve built trust and coached your team regularly to develop their skills, then they will be ready for more and be more effective to deliver more.  I see too many virtual catch ups to check in on progress against task… staying connected makes sense of course, but overburdening calendars with calls which effectively say ‘I don’t trust’ you are not useful at all.

  • Agree And Iterate The Ground Rules: How often do we want to be in the office?  To do what?  How do we co-ordinate our calendars and activities so that being together is enjoyable, useful, creative, fun, social?  What are the ground rules for virtual communication so that we avoid the black screen of boxes where lots of people are on calls not listening to or engaging with one person who is talking to themselves? 

  • Continually Talk About Communication:  It is the source of so much conflict.  It’s not the case to talk about it once, or at the start of a project.  We need to talk about it often, canvassing opinions widely and be willing to be open, flexible, responsive to feedback and meaningfully appreciative of the contributions of all.

Are there more than 5 aspects to consider?  Yes.  But this is a great place to dial up our skills meaningfully, deeply and effectively.

Until next time….

Sarah Brummitt