“If you don’t work at the Mothership, you’ll never get ahead. That’s how I see it.”
The “Mothership” in this case was the gleaming new HQ building outside of Boston where hundreds of corporate staff members for this growing software company came to work each day.
The HQ campus had everything an employee could ever want – fun-filled social gatherings, comfortable collaboration areas, state-of-the art technology, a dog park, free food, a tap room, hammocks, a sun-drenched atrium, and cool company SWAG like you read about.
But the thousands of other employees scattered around the world had none of these privileges. Much more troubling was the perception on the part of remote employees that unless they worked at the company HQ, they’d continue to be excluded from coveted projects and promotional opportunities. And more troubling still was the fact that HQ managers dismissed the concerns of remote employees as “unfounded whining” and “pure fiction.”
The HR leader engaged me to create a series of workshops for leaders of hybrid teams, known as “virtual teams” in a pre-COVID world. My interviews with managers and employees in remote locations confirmed what the HR leader had told me: “People outside of HQ just aren’t visible to the people who matter. And that’s why they’re leaving.”
See the links below for templates, job aids and examples
When asked which challenges presented the greatest barriers to their success, their responses weren’t very different from managers I work with today:
- Building trust and making connections
- Creating shared team principles, norms and contracts
- Managing performance, including giving and getting feedback
- Coaching and mentoring
- Maintaining equity across a globally distributed team
- Navigating cultural differences
The first few workshops were so popular that we eventually ended up running close to 20. We went on to create a similar workshop series for any members of a virtual team who wanted to gain visibility, demonstrate credibility and achieve career success when working from remote locations.
Leaders and team members attending the workshop said they felt included, valued and listened to, and picked up tips they could apply almost immediately for progressing their careers, despite their distance from the “Mothership.”
Essential ingredients for success – The “secret sauce”
🎇 Consider which skills, behaviors and habits are most important, and devise learning methods that work best for each. Empathy, for example, might be best cultivated through small-group discussions, role-plays and review of 360-feedback surveys, while leading equitable hybrid meetings might be learned and practices through a series of virtual workshops.
🎇 Don’t assume that leaders all want and need the same thing. Cookie-cutter approaches rarely work. Build in time for interviews and surveys with representative participants up front.
🎇 Divide learning segments into relatively small chunks, giving people time to reflect and apply what they’ve learned in between. Make sure to allocate time for cross-table conversations among peers.
🎇 Find ways to hold managers accountable for applying what they’ve learned by devising agreed-upon metrics, including employee feedback, both formal and informal.
Other real-life examples:
This real-life client scenario is fairly typical of leadership skills workshops I have facilitated—virtually, in-person, or hybrid—for dozens of all-virtual and hybrid organizations across all industries, such as:
❇️ An online drug prescription service organization growing quickly through acquisitions, where new managers had little experience leading successful remote teams
❇️ A large Federal agency operating almost entirely onsite prior to COVID before making an official switch to hybrid, without any rules to go by
❇️ A Canadian financial services giant whose leaders were struggling to engage and retain employees working across multiple locations
If leading effective hybrid teams isn’t coming easily to your managers and leaders, Guided Insights can help. We offer customized learning programs, coaching and strategic advisory services to organizations navigating their way through a hybrid workplace, something we’ve gotten very good at over the last 20+ years.
Please see the links below for templates, guidelines, examples and articles that might be helpful to the leaders and members of your hybrid teams looking for skills and tools to help them be more effective.
And remember: Few organizations have this new way of hybrid working really nailed down, though some may claim to. This is a time for a certain degree of experimentation, refinement and validation of new ways of working.
Downloadable checklists, templates and sample agendas
- Team charter checklist – downloadable PDF template
- Creating and Adopting Norms for Your Virtual Team – Quick List (guidedinsights.com) – downloadable PDF template
- Communications planning matrix for virtual teams – downloadable PDF template
- ABCs-of-Virtual-Leadership_job-aid_client_032712.pdf (guidedinsights.com) – downloadable job aid
- Listening_tips_guide_excerpt.pdf (guidedinsights.com) – downloadable PDF file
- The Impossibility of Designing a “Perfect” Virtual Meeting in a Multicultural World – Guided Insights
Related Workshops from Guided Insights