Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
April 18, 2023

Leadership Today: Tips for Engaging Hybrid Teams

It has been three years since the onset of a global pandemic. Today, one topic that dominates many conversations with leaders centers on the question:

“Is being a leader harder now than it was three years ago?”

The answer, in a word, is YES! Most leaders agree that there is absolutely no question that their role is harder now than it was before March of 2020.

Top down, structural and directive leadership approaches that existed when people were always physically in the office are not flexible enough for the revised expectations employees have in a now post-pandemic, hybrid environment. In the early days of the pandemic, employees witnessed the vulnerability of their leaders; they found that approach authentic and personal and have grown to expect empathetic leadership. Leaders are finding they must be always on, ready to tackle whatever is on an employee’s mind and dive into details once never imagined. They also need to be much more deliberate and planful about engaging their teams and building trust amongst team members working across a variety of modalities.

Here are five tips for leaders to engage and empower your people:

  1. Listen intently and draw on the human elements of leadership , such as culture, trusting relationships and organizational engagement, and personal traits such as empathy and humility. We call these “beneath-the-surface” leadership attributes. They are harder to “see” and manage than attributes like career experience or organizational structure, but they are naturally more flexible and adaptable.
  2. Link people’s work to purpose. Numerous studies show that most people, but especially Millennials and Generation Z, look for purpose in work and want to have an impact. Purpose communicates the “why” of the organization, helping individuals understand why they are doing what they do.
  3. Promote a learning environment. People want to learn and appreciate investments in their onboarding and ongoing development. A powerful way that leaders can demonstrate their investment in their people is by adopting a coaching approach to leadership by providing ongoing feedback — both positive and developmental.
  4. Empower leaders and managers with the tools to operate in this new world. Our research suggests that, according to talent managers, the biggest barrier to executing a talent strategy is lack of manager capability, followed by lack of business ownership of talent.
  5. Pay attention to culture. The right culture can capture the imagination and energy of people in the organization and ignite their potential — it makes them more or less collaborative, more creative and open-minded or more cautious and planful — without even realizing it. Leaders should make sure they foster the behaviors that they want to see in the culture.
While leadership today may be harder and require more energy, it can certainly be more rewarding and impactful when done right!