13.2 C
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hybrid working: the future is agile

Following a year of remote working, ambiguity, and the remarkable impact on businesses across the globe, there has never been a more emotionally charged workforce for leaders to manage.

Every leader will have learned, in part, that being ‘cognitively agile’, supported by a dedicated remote workforce, has allowed us to survive the effects of the pandemic.  Still, the fight for survival remains, as organisations seek to adopt a hybrid working strategy.

Why does hybrid working create such a business challenge?

Fundamentally, we know that working physically co-located works – it is what many of us have always done.  We also know that remote working works because we have managed (better than expected) for over a year in our homes doing just that.  But now, for the first time, businesses are moving to a hybrid model, which is currently unchartered territory.

Now, more than ever, is the time for all of us as business leaders to develop even greater cognitive agility.  Just like the jump to remote working on mass, the shift into hybrid is going to require us to change the way we think and behave.  We will need to understand the people we employ at every level of the organisation as individuals and to lead teams – including the Executive – differently.  We must concentrate on personal development and grow our curiosity and emotional intelligence (EQ) to understand the challenges that lie ahead.

What will make a good hybrid leader?

There is no algorithm for hybrid; no set procedures, policies, or practices that can be implemented in a business that will provide an instant solution to avoid the potential consequences businesses face.  The same goes for business leaders.  There is no existing training course you can go on, a role model or company you can take the lead from, as many will be in the same situation.

As a business psychologist, I have worked closely with FTSE100 businesses to help them think through the leadership skills needed to ensure a smooth transition to hybrid.  Some of the traits of a hybrid leader are comparative to those of high performing leaders in a digital environment.  Our European research identified several dimensions that make up an agile mindset: Authenticity, Ambi-dexterity, Continuous Learning and External Perspective.

Building Cognitive Agility

Over the last 18 months we have witnessed that being ‘cognitively agile’ has been a necessity which has been somewhat thrust upon us.

As leaders, what have we learned about ourselves? How can we apply those learnings to become a successful future hybrid leader?

Curiosity: An effective hybrid leader needs to be curious.  Not just about the business, but of individuals throughout the organisation.  Only by understanding and being sensitive to the needs of different social groups and cultures can leaders effectively adapt their approach to motivating and communicating with hybrid teams.

Adaptability: Often, our views are ingrained in the way we work and how we manage, making other people’s opinions hard to incorporate into our mindset.  Hybrid policies will demand consideration of a broader range of working preferences and an ability to adapt as the landscape changes.

Comfortable with Ambiguity: ambiguity can lead to chaos.  As a leader it is important to make sense of ambiguity for those around us and then ‘give sense’ to ensure whatever solutions considered are clear, concise, and not open to misinterpretation.

Being a cognitively agile leader will ensure we can adapt and shift our thought processes, leading to more positive outcomes.  Moreover, it can help to avoid the unintended consequences of hybrid.



Emotional Intelligence to deal with the ‘Unintended Consequences’ of Hybrid

The shift to hybrid could lead to a variety of consequences that may never have been considered.  In our journal, published earlier this year, we focus on a variety of unintended consequences, including the impact on complex decision making and the formation of echo chambers; the development of ‘in’ and ‘out-groups’, dealing with unconscious bias and ‘presence privilege’ that could have severe ramifications on the organisational culture.

We have also raised two critical issues that could have both reputational and financial implications for the business:

Diversity: Hybrid can lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace if not carefully considered.  The pattern of which individuals choose to work from home could lead to less diverse groups (in terms of age, culture, and gender) present during in-person interactions (such as creative meetings) but more importantly, complex business decisions.

Discrimination: Every person is different.  Every person’s home life and surroundings are equally diverse.  Jenny in the accounts team may be extroverted.  Angela in marketing has a three-year-old and has managed to coordinate childcare during remote working and world prefer to work from home.  A team provides a very complex set of variables.  Your curious nature comes in to play here.  Your emotional intelligence as a leader can help alleviate the risk of discriminating against gender, age, or socio-economic groups, and even culture, which can easily be mistaken for race, by simply understanding the people you employ.

Have you got your approach to Hybrid right?

Quite simply, we do not know yet.  Hybrid will be an explored way of working and there are no existing benchmarks for success.  At present, there is something that we also do not know; did remote working work?   Hypothetically, it worked in a crisis we faced with emotions running high and our personal circumstances disrupted at an unprecedented level.

The reactions from employees have been heavily documented as they rebelled against decisions to bring remote workers back to the office immediately.  The tech giants, who initially offered a work-from-home strategy, have backtracked, and adopted hybrid.  No matter the size of the business, understanding and developing your cognitive agility and EQ as a leader, filtered down to managers at every level, will lead to greater success when your hybrid policies are fully implemented.

How do I become a successful hybrid leader?

As business psychologists, we recommend investing in developing yourself and your senior people to understand the type of leader you are now and the hybrid leader you need to be.

Psychometric testing can provide insight and the next steps required to become a strong, more proficient leader able to adapt to various situations.  From the hybrid simulators we have undertaken with our clients, OE Cam has learned that leaders can adjust quickly.  Once they understand themselves, understanding trickles down to all levels.

In time, this will lead to better decision making around business policy and a greater chance of success with hybrid.

Martyn Sakol, Managing Partner, OE Cam

With more than 20 years’ experience, Martyn Sakol is a Chartered Psychologist specialising in leadership assessment and development, He’s advised a range of high-profile clients both in the UK and internationally.  He has also has been a visiting lecturer in Executive Education at The Judge Business School, Cambridge University.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

  • – Advertisement –

Latest Articles