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According to a recent report, over 70% of US employers are now embracing hybrid work models, while the share of offices offering flexibility is increasing quarter on quarter (Time). I think we can confidently say now – hybrid work is firmly on the rise. It’s not a COVID fad and it represents the new generation of work.
But navigating the dynamic landscape of hybrid teams requires a unique blend of communication skills. With team members spread across remote and in-office setups, the art of effective communication becomes the key to unlocking success.
In this article, we’ll delve into nine essential strategies that leaders can embrace to master the art of communication in a hybrid team environment. From reducing uncertainty to fostering feedback, these tactics have been expertly collated from SocialTalent’s brand new content on hybrid leadership, in partnership with renowned experts Jason Lauritsen and Linda Jonas.
1. Reduce Uncertainty
“Uncertainty kills engagement.” This is the backbone of successful hybrid communication, according to Jason. “Uncertainty creates drama and generally undermines everything else you are trying to do as a manager.” So start by setting crystal-clear expectations for each team member. Make sure they understand their roles, responsibilities, and how their contributions align with the team’s overall mission. And remember: regular updates on project progress and organizational goals will keep everyone on the same page, minimizing confusion and boosting team morale. Creating clarity and reducing uncertainty is foundational when it comes to effective communication within hybrid teams.
2. How to Measure Effective Communication
The measure of effective communication is not derived from a manager or leader. It does not matter if you think you’re doing a great job getting a point across – if the receiver does not understand, it’s a failure of communication. A bitter pill to swallow for sure, but so important to recognize this when establishing channels of clear communication. Linda Jonas proffers three areas to be acutely aware of when examining this:
- Is your team asking relevant questions?
- Get them to repeat the information.
- Is there confidence to move forward?
By measuring these prompts, you can gauge the effectiveness of your communication strategy and fine-tune it for maximum impact.
3. Finding the Right Communication Style
Strong leadership in a hybrid team hinges on your ability to adapt your communication style. Recognize that different team members have varying preferences for communication modes – whether that’s email, instant messaging, or video calls. And as a manager, one of your first tasks is to figure out the most effective method with each one of your people. It may sound a little overkill but as Jason tells us: “Bad communication is easy. Good communication takes work.” Spend the time needed to understand how your team best operates and adapt your style to suit.
4. Shared Accountability
Forge a culture of shared accountability within your hybrid team. Every team member should feel empowered to actively contribute to discussions, share updates, and ask questions. As a leader, emphasize that effective communication is a collective effort. This sense of ownership creates a tighter-knit team that collaborates seamlessly and achieves milestones together. Be upfront and let them know that communication is a priority, and if things aren’t clear, speak up about it.
In the world of hybrid teams, repetition is your secret weapon. Within the digital hum, important messages can easily get lost or go unnoticed. To combat this, echo key messages across different communication channels – team meetings, emails, project management tools, IM. This repetition ensures that critical information reaches every corner of your hybrid team, leaving no room for misinterpretation. As Linda states: “One thing we know about human nature and how our brains process information is that we often need to repeat something many times before it actually sticks.”
6. Consistent Communication Protocols
Maintaining consistency in a hybrid team hinges on well-defined communication protocols. Establish guidelines and rules for using specific communication channels based on the urgency and complexity of messages. This clarity prevents misunderstandings and empowers your team to select the right communication method for every situation. Remote and hybrid work makes this a challenge – new or changing tools and dispersed teams can create an environment of reduced visibility. But if you’re hyper clear with your protocols and agreements, you can easily navigate this and remain in a comfortable flow of communication.
What can these protocols look like? Here’s an example for email:
- For sharing information and updates.
- Expected response time: Within 24 hours.
- Only CC people or reply all if everyone involved needs to know the information.
- Do not use email for in-the-flow work discussions.
Routines are the glue that holds a hybrid team together. Regularly scheduled team meetings keep everyone attuned to goals and projects. These gatherings are more than just updates – they’re a platform to tackle challenges, celebrate triumphs, and build camaraderie. Equally vital are one-on-one meetings that offer a personalized touch. These routines infuse a sense of stability and ensure that vital conversations never slip through the cracks. But remember: make these meetings useful and informative. If feedback from your team suggests they’d rather do without these touchpoints, it usually means that they’re not getting value.
8. Setting Boundaries
Balancing work and life in a hybrid team can be a delicate dance, especially when we can essentially be connected to our teams 24/7. As a leader, you play a pivotal role in setting boundaries for communication beyond standard working hours. Encourage your team to respect each other’s downtime and refrain from sending non-urgent messages during off-hours. It’s important to create these boundaries as a manager because it also gives your team permission to create boundaries for themselves – you are the blueprint!
9. Fostering Feedback
Feedback is the compass that guides improvement. Regularly solicit input from your team about their communication experiences. Are there areas that need polishing? What strategies are working well? Act on this feedback to fine-tune your approaches. Foster an environment where your team feels comfortable sharing thoughts and ideas – this feedback loop enhances the overall communication dynamics of your hybrid team.
Elevate your Approach to Hybrid Leadership
The art of leading a hybrid team is an ever-evolving journey that requires a strategic approach to communication. By reducing uncertainty, embracing adaptability, fostering shared responsibility, utilizing repetition, and nurturing feedback, you’ll become a beacon of effective leadership.
- How to Communicate Effectively as a Hybrid Leader
- How to Manage Hybrid Team Performance and Motivation
- How to Foster Connection in Hybrid Teams
- How to Master Employee One-on-Ones and Giving Feedback