The sudden and rapid shift to hybrid workplaces brings a unique opportunity for exploring new ways of working. What makes the emergence of hybrid models different from past seismic changes in the business landscape, such as the industrial and information revolutions, is that the hybrid workplace is primarily about embracing new behaviors enabled by technology rather than new technologies redefining businesses and behavior.
If you’re a leader navigating this new world, your first challenge is accepting that no one yet knows what the future of hybrid work looks like and then resisting the temptation to dictate a top-down solution.
There is an unprecedented opportunity for you to engage with your people—creating an open and honest dialogue to discover a new and better way to work. But in many organizations, doing that effectively requires a shift in the mindset of managers and then learning to lead with trust.
Leading with Trust
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, co-authors of the bestselling book The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, developed a behavior assessment for leaders – the Leadership Practices Inventory. Across more than one million assessments, one factor consistently received the absolute lowest rating: “[My manager] asks for feedback on how his/her actions affect other people’s performance.” With the mountains of data showing the positive impact of active listening and open conversation on trust, performance, and wellbeing, how can there be such a disconnect?
The hybrid workplace is primarily about organizations embracing new behaviors enabled by technology versus new technology reshaping businesses and behavior.
Too often, the practice of getting the right insights from the right people at the right time to drive the right results isn’t woven into the fabric of an organization. As evidenced by the data showing that trust is at an all-time low and survey fatigue at an all-time high, the mind-numbing number of pulse surveys, engagement measures, 360 feedback tools and the like don’t make much of an impact. Those top-down tools don’t uncover the behaviors that diminish trust and weaken day-to-day teamwork – especially across organizational boundaries. And few employees will dare to raise issues and share concerns about trust and toxic relationships if they don’t feel psychologically safe.
If you genuinely want to create an open and honest dialogue with people doing so is astonishingly simple. Most companies have dozens of KPIs, OKRs, or goals focused on productivity and performance. Add one KPI that measures trust on and between teams and captures the actions to close any gaps, then hold managers accountable for the results. Overnight you’ll change people’s behavior, shift skeptics to enthusiastic participants, and give employees a safe place to speak up. Equally important, you will lay the foundation for developing a thriving hybrid workplace built around leading with trust.
The DNA of Hybrid Teams
The shift to a hybrid workplace makes teamwork harder. From additional complexities in communications to triggering biases and behaviors that erode trust, team dynamics can get rough very quickly. Leading with trust is the DNA of high-performance hybrid teams because it smooths the adoption of behaviors that create trust and enable people to quickly overcome biases and behavior challenges.
There are three leader behaviors that are the heart of leading with trust:
- Establishing shared purpose and values on their team and living them every day.
- Inspiring people by understanding and investing in what intrinsically motivates them.
- Coaching behaviors on and between teams that align purpose and values and close gaps.
Those behaviors fire up the brain’s reward system, maximize confidence, and create wellbeing. Leaders who adopt these three behaviors reinforce trust and enable teamwork to progress with less monitoring, greater resource efficiency, and less duplication of effort. For hybrid teams, these behaviors are essential as they face a greater likelihood of teams falling into discord as they strive to overcome the barriers of time, distance, communications, and cultures.
Without trust we don’t truly collaborate; we merely coordinate or, at best, cooperate. It is trust that transforms a group of people into a team.
—Steven M. R. Covey
Failing to successfully shift to a hybrid workplace model can place the success – or at the very least the competitive edge – of organizations at risk. As you seek to create a new and better way to work, recognize that successfully leading hybrid teams lies more with decoding and understanding human behavior than adding new processes and technology. The key is developing leaders who lead with trust. Those leaders will excel at helping people work together to overcome biases and behavior challenges, enabling team members to trust each other, work collaboratively, and hold each other accountable. It’s human behavior that will ultimately determine who gets mired in mediocrity or thrives in a boundary-spanning, hybrid world.