Relationship Building Strategies for Hybrid Team Leaders
Becoming a great leader is a worthy but demanding undertaking. It takes courage, hard work, and adaptability to various changes and challenges coming from everywhere. The most recent one came from within the work teams.
The swift shift to remote and hybrid work back in 2020 did take many by surprise. And then, cooped up at home, employees across the globe thought: hey, I could get used to this! True, hybrid work is incredibly beneficial to employee well-being but also to employee productivity, as this Oxford University Saïd Business School’s study found.
So, to reach a high level of productivity, an adaptive and forward-thinking team lead might ask: how do I keep my partially remote team concentrated, collaborative, and highly productive?
Our answer: with solid and reliable relationships. Quality connections within teams are essential for establishing flow and outstanding productivity. You’ll need to foster the relationships within your hybrid team to get the best results.
It is an ever-changing challenge. However, we’ve outlined the relationship-building strategies that help a hybrid team lead to create a work environment aimed for success.
Grow Your Adaptive Communication Skills
Communication is on top of every list of essential skills for a successful leader. No wonder: communication is the lifeblood of any team. And, with the rise of hybrid work – it’s ever more needed.
This brings us to the most crucial point: developing adaptive communication skills. As you might need help reaching out to remote and in-office teammates, don’t be scared of the challenge! Instead, make contact at the right time, adjust your language, and tailor the message to the person you’re addressing. That way, you’ll get more understanding and build more solid relationships.
Be available, follow through, and don’t disappear
In a hybrid team, communication aimed at success means quality, not quantity. No one wants work mornings to boil down to 3-hour staff meetings discussing every single aspect of everyone’s tasks on hand. It’s worth planning group meetings and one-on-ones with strong attention to purpose and content.
Craft your availability schedules so everyone knows when they can reach you and when you might not be available. Show them that you’re there for them and respect your boundaries.
Make sure you’re present for the team when needed, whether responding to messages, participating in meetings, or offering support when challenges arise.
Additionally, follow through on your promises or lasting commitments to your team members. Make a conscious effort to keep everyone in the loop, even those who may not be physically present in the office. Consider using digital tools to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
As the team leader in a hybrid situation, ensuring no one feels left out is essential. Setting a straightforward and easy-going approach to communication within the team builds trust. It shows that you are a reliable manager dedicated to the team’s success.
Practice active listening
Active listening is a way of conversing that requires the listener to be fully immersed in the speaker’s words, understanding their meaning, and showing it through providing feedback.
The importance of this skill in building relationships within a hybrid team is undeniable. With active listening, you can get to know each team member better, understand their needs and limitations, and get a glimpse of their thought process. And it works in both off- and online conversations!
Here are a few techniques to become a great active listener:
- Repeat back what the speaker has said to ensure mutual understanding and confirmation,
- Paraphrase in your own words a more complicated idea to clarify it,
- Ask open-ended questions, encourage your colleague to share more information,
- Use non-verbal cues such as nodding and maintaining eye contact to show interest and engagement.
Active listening is as essential in professional settings as in personal relationships, and it’s a significant first step in conflict resolution.
Grow your willingness to compromise
Being able to compromise is a valuable skill for any leader. It is particularly vital for hybrid teams – as there might be differences in opinion, approaches, or resources available to remote workers.
It’s okay to have debates and arguments. Just remember that building strong relationships requires both parties to be willing to find a middle ground and move forward. So, here are a few tips for that:
- Focus on the problem, not the person,
- Understand the other person’s perspective (use your active listening skills),
- Don’t forget to jointly brainstorm multiple solutions,
- Evaluate the pros and cons of each solution you’ve brainstormed,
- Be willing to give and take,
- Focus on the future: in a situation requiring compromise, it’s easy to get caught up in short-term wins or losses. Instead, look for strategic solutions.
It’s often the case that debates or arguments happen in the presence of other team members. By practicing healthy communication and being willing to compromise, you also demonstrate how complicated issues can be navigated to your team. Every compromise can bring a great solution and reinforce your image as a reliable and trustworthy leader.
Find a place for conflict management
Conflicts happen even within teams with the most excellent communication habits. Undoubtedly, the best conflict is the one prevented. Yet, a great team leader knows how to manage tensions and reach a resolution if it comes to worst.
First, use your skills as an active listener and a compromising leader, as discussed above. In conflict resolution, they become vital to a productive and open-minded solution. Set clear expectations, encourage open communication, and address conflicts early on before they escalate.
Secondly, balance out the mediums for communication:
- An in-person meeting is always the best way to resolve a conflict, as both parties have an unobstructed view of non-verbal cues and can fully sense the voice and body language. However, leaving the most uncomfortable conversations for “closed-door meetings” might also create a specific correlation your hybrid team will surely notice. And you don’t want your colleagues to feel eerie each time you schedule an in-office one-on-one.
- So, use the benefits of video conferencing. Here, you can have as good of a one-on-one with your teammate. Practice active listening, stay empathetic, and show that you’re working together, not against each other.
- A phone call is the last resort in a conflict resolution situation with a hybrid team. As it provides the most minor exchange of cues in-between you and your colleague, a phone call should be reserved for updates, follow-ups, or smaller briefings on the topic.
- Never, never settle a conflict in a chat or an instant messenger. Not only do those interrupt the workflow, but they present an extremely limited exchange of emotions and thoughts. In a chat, an easily salvageable situation may explode by misusing an emoji within lacking context.
Finally, feel free to seek outside support and focus on solutions, not blame. When you redirect the situation towards finding a solution, the third party’s involvement can help you clearly focus on goals instead of each other.
Using these conflict management techniques with your remote team can help create a positive and productive work environment where everyone feels heard and valued. With such trust, your hybrid team becomes resilient and reliable.
Expand the Purpose of Team Building
Excellent team building goes a long way. It not only helps to improve collaboration and create a cohesive team atmosphere, but it also boosts morale and improves job satisfaction. This was demonstrated by Sunil Misra and Kailash B. L. Srivastava in their “Team-building Competencies, Personal Effectiveness and Job Satisfaction: The Mediating Effect of Transformational Leadership and Technology” article from 2018.
When it comes to team building, it’s essential to be intentional and thoughtful about the activities you undertake as a participant and a leader, turning team relationships to the benefit. This is twice as important in a hybrid team environment where team members may only sometimes be able to physically interact with each other.
So use the benefits of team building like building trust, establishing communication channels, and fostering a sense of community within the team. Encourage team members to share their ideas, experiences, and passions. Create opportunities for you to learn them better and for them to know each other better.
Here, successful leadership isn’t just about your interactions with the team; it’s also about how team members interact with each other. This is essential for hybrid work, as much time is spent remotely, and teams must collaborate remotely.
Additionally, as the team leader, you can take the team-building exercises a step further. Be creative, follow Austin Kleon’s advice, and “steal” like an artist: incorporate best practices from your team buildings into everyday operations. For example, if your team had a successful trust-building exercise during a retreat, consider including a similar exercise in your regular team meetings. And to expand this thought, here are some general ideas of team-building practices that you can incorporate into daily work:
- Have those good old regular check-ins: discuss progress, provide feedback, and offer support.
- Celebrate successes: celebrate team successes, big or small, to reinforce positive behaviors and achievements.
- Encourage cross-training: encourage team members to share their knowledge and skills with you and each other. This helps build a more versatile team and promotes a culture of continuous learning and development.
- Hold brainstorming sessions, collaborative problem-solving, or group decision-making exercises.
- Go virtual: if the team is working remotely, incorporate virtual team-building practices, such as virtual coffee breaks, virtual team games or trivia, or virtual team-building exercises.
- Set group goals: involve the team in setting group goals and objectives and regularly track progress towards those goals. This helps create a shared sense of purpose and commitment among team members.
- Invite your colleagues to practice active listening: ask for feedback and opinions, and acknowledge different perspectives. This helps foster a culture of respect and inclusivity, strengthening relationships among team members.
It’s essential to be flexible and adaptable to incorporate new team-building approaches successfully into a hybrid team. Consider hybrid teams’ unique situations and challenges, such as time zone differences or technological difficulties, and adjust team activities accordingly.
Overall, the key to successful continuous team building in a hybrid team is to prioritize open communication, trust-building, and a sense of inclusivity. It transforms a hybrid workplace into a foundation to develop strong relationships and fosters a space for exchange, collaboration, and shared values.
Shared purpose and alignment toward a common goal are undeniably a solid basis for relationships. Remember how you made friends in your teenage years? You may have been different overall, but you bonded over a favorite band or a political cause and kept tight to grow together in your tastes or values.
Similarly, your hybrid team members may have different strengths and approaches, but you jointly invest in the same ultimate goal. Here, by becoming the person who shares the company vision and responds to feedback, you align the team with the company culture and create work relationships based on shared values.
So, show how you walk the talk: live for the common purpose and involve team members in developing and refining the company vision. This approach can foster a sense of ownership and commitment among team members and expand your company’s collective intelligence.
Collective intelligence – the collective knowledge, insight, and problem-solving ability of a group – is quite a humbling yet progressive concept to implement. You and your team can leverage each other’s strengths, experiences, and perspectives to develop more innovative and effective solutions. This collaborative approach can lead to better decision-making and improved overall outcomes for the company.
As this handy Psychology Today’s article author Tim Leberecht concludes that collective intelligence may put each team leader or CEO in a humble position, yet it brings success for all of us. So tap into the collective intelligence of your team and unlock new ideas and solutions by growing relationships and trust:
- Practice collaborative decision-making. You can involve all team members in decision-making to ensure everyone’s opinions and perspectives are considered.
- Focus on innovation. Encourage creative and innovative ideas from your colleagues by creating a safe space of trust and respect.
- Note and repeat. Make collaborative decisions iteratively by testing and refining ideas as you go. Show your aim towards the best possible result and support continuous and reliable communication with your team.
- Plan ahead. Make decisions with a long-term perspective and include your team in the picture, showing how you count on them. This helps build trust and strengthen relationships over time.
- Consider the impact of decisions on relationships and morale. Prioritize decisions that help to build and strengthen the team. This can create a positive and supportive business environment.
- Make decisions that are ethical and aligned with the company’s values. This helps build trust and credibility among team members, which can ultimately help to grow the business.
Become an In-Credible Leader
If we had to boil down all of the ideas in this article, one approach a manager could take to develop strong relationships within their team is to be credible.
Credibility means people see you as trustworthy, dependable, truthful, and capable. These qualities are a strong foundation for relationship-building strategies you should undertake to expand what is possible for your team.
Your honesty and transparency make you trustworthy. Your delivery of promises demonstrates that you are dependable. Your professional competence shows you are knowledgeable and capable. Your integrity helps build trust. Your consistency makes you reliable. Your respect for others, even when you disagree with them, helps build positive relationships.
Building credibility takes time and effort, but personal integrity makes this process easier and more genuine. Ultimately, it’s not just about accomplishing your personal goals but cultivating authentic bonds that benefit everyone involved. Building lasting relationships is about not just checking off boxes on a list but also creating mutual trust and respect.
So, become the incredible leader that your hybrid team needs! And as you develop your leadership style, remember the power of empathy. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their thoughts and feelings. It’s essential to building strong relationships because it shows that you care about your team members as people, not just employees.