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InfoQ Homepage News How to Lead and Manage in This Brave New Remote and Hybrid World

How to Lead and Manage in This Brave New Remote and Hybrid World

Hybrid working is a mindset of trusting people and providing opportunities to get the best from everyone regardless of place and time. Managers have the opportunity to make people feel empowered, motivated, and productive. Alternatively, they can squash creativity, fun and psychological safety. Erica Farmer will speak about working techniques and leadership practices for hybrid and remote working at QCon London 2023. This conference is held March 27-29.

According to Farmer, people describe hybrid models of working in different ways:

The most purest and technical answer would be something along the lines of "so many days in the office and so many days in another location, such as home", however, I don’t buy this.

Farmer considers hybrid to be a mindset which is all about personalisation. It’s about providing opportunities to get the best from your people no matter where or when they are working. It’s all about what’s best for the company AND the individual - so it’s a balance. Something which might work for one person, might not work for another - so we need to offer personalised and supported working structures which are motivational and mutually beneficial, Farmer argues.

According to Farmer, managers and leaders can support hybrid teams by providing coaching and support which starts with trust. Trust that your people are doing the right things, trust in their competence, and trust that they will come to you when you need help.

It’s all about the environment you create, Farmer argues; not the physical environment, but a psychologically safe environment. This means creating a culture where team members can raise their head above the parapet and suggest something new without fear of reprimand or embarrassment.

InfoQ interviewed Erica Farmer about leading in hybrid and remote environments.

InfoQ: What are the challenges of hybrid and remote working?

Erica Farmer: It’s a mindset thing. Some managers and leaders will automatically answer this question from a trust and behavioural perspective (which actually says more about their management style than anything else!). A great use of collaborative technology, dialling up communication, support and autonomy, can provide a fantastic working environment for team members who feel valued and treated like individuals.

We all have our own preferences based on how we like to work and our work/life balance, and to get the best from our people we need to put this at the forefront of our practice.

Don’t get me wrong; sometimes there are times when we just need to be in the office. But that’s our own decision to make and output to deliver, which is how we should be managing our people - output.

InfoQ: How can managers deal with these challenges and support hybrid teams?

Farmer: We have found that some managers have taken to hybrid and remote management like a duck to water, and some have really struggled. No longer can we as managers and leaders peer over someone’s shoulder to quickly judge the quality of their work in the moment. And arguably I would question, was this ever the best way to manage people?

The best manager I ever had was a manager who provided the platform for me to spread my wings. Just enough guidance, and plenty of room to make my own decisions (and mistakes). She always listened to my thinking about a project or output, and held me accountable for this in a fair, kind and direct way. This was through clear feedback, praise, approachability and a good listening ear. Oh, and by the way, we never really saw each other as we lived in different parts of the country!

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