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InfoQ Homepage News Hybrid Leadership is an Issue of Equity and Inclusion

Hybrid Leadership is an Issue of Equity and Inclusion

Lena Reinhard spoke at QCon San Francisco on Successful Leadership in Hybrid Environments, in which she explored why hybrid working is attractive for companies and employees, the risks and challenges associated with hybrid working, and why leadership in hybrid environments is fundamentally an issue of equity and inclusion. She discussed a set of guiding principles for hybrid leadership and ways to unleash your team's potential and ended with advice on ways to change your organisation for the better.

She started by making the point that:

The traits and goals of a good leader are no different in a hybrid environment , but you need to adjust your tools and approaches to deliberately promote equity and adapt quickly.

She pointed out that equity is more than equality - using the example of provisioning a home office she stated that giving everyone exactly the same desk is equality, whereas equity would be providing an allowance for furniture that people can spend in ways that work best for their specific context. Leaders need to co-create the hybrid environment with their teams in order to help unleash their potential, support visibility for everyone’s work and change the organisation for the better.

To create the hybrid environment with the team, she spoke about the importance of knowing each and every team member really well as humans - this takes dedicated and deliberate effort on the leader’s behalf to have deep conversations. Leaders need to support team members to build relationships with each other and ensure there is space in people’s days for building connections. She emphasised the importance of effective onboarding and suggested that every new hire be given an onboarding buddy who guides them through the onboarding process.

She spoke about the need to level the playing field in big and small interactions. Team norms are important and need to be documented using tools like operating manuals. In hybrid and remote environments, making culture explicit and clearly communicating how we work together helps prevent misalignment and misunderstanding.

She explicitly called out proximity bias as a risk that leaders need to be aware of and actively work to overcome. Creating meaningful impact and development opportunities for everyone, not just the people who are in the office most frequently, requires deliberate, conscious awareness and self-management.

Talking about how leaders need to interact with their team, she implored them to be a dolphin, not a whale. In the ocean, dolphins need to come up for air every 20 minutes or so, whereas whales can go for hours without surfacing. Leaders need to communicate on a frequent cadence and tailor their content to the needs of the person they are talking to, using a variety of channels. She suggested the Rule of 7 for important messages - communicating the same information 7 times in 7 different ways, and even then some people will not hear what you are trying to convey.

She explained the importance of push communications,  making sure the team’s work is very visible and giving them the opportunity to shine.  She shared an article that goes deeper into the points she made and reinforces the advice from her talk.

She ended by making the point that:

Hybrid leadership is fundamentally an issue of equity and inclusion.

It is our duty as hybrid leaders to promote equity and adapt quickly with our teams

And create equitable hybrid spaces where truly everyone can shine

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