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InfoQ Homepage News Leading in Hybrid and Remote Environments: Skills to Develop and Tools That Can Help

Leading in Hybrid and Remote Environments: Skills to Develop and Tools That Can Help

Leading in hybrid and remote environments requires that managers develop new skills like coaching, facilitation, and being able to do difficult conversations remotely. With digital tools, we can include less dominant and more reflective people to get wider reflections from different brains and personalities. This can result in more diverse and inclusive working environments.

Erica Farmer spoke about leading effectively in hybrid and remote environments at QCon London 2023.

Farmer suggested that managers should develop coaching skills to enable and foster hybrid working. A coaching approach might sound cheesy though to many managers, especially those who prefer a directive, command and control style of management. We see this a lot in more technical managers, or for those who have been "technicians" on the Friday and promoted to "people managers" on the Monday, she said.

People management and leadership is a whole different skill set and requires an ability to truly put yourself in the shoes of others (empathy), ask the right type of questions to raise self-awareness and responsibility (coach) and provide guidance and feedback when it is needed (performance management), Farmer mentioned:

Having a difficult conversation is one of the trickiest things for most managers to do (65% of managers confess to this) so being able to do this remotely or in a hybrid working environment requires these key ingredients.

Technology can enable us to include less dominant and more reflective people. Farmer mentioned that one of the many great things which has come to the changes in working practices over the last three years is the offering of new tech and ways to engage both synchronously or asynchronously.

Long gone are the days where as managers we’d rely on the extraverts in the room or on a call to come up with all the ideas, while those who are more introverted end up feeling they didn’t have the best opportunity to contribute, Farmer said. She mentioned seeing this in traditional classroom training all the time, where the trainer feels they are receiving responses from the delegates but are only really engaging about half of the class.

Farmer gave the example of digital tools such as MS Teams and Zoom, which have diverse engagement tools - reactions, polling, whiteboards, and annotation, to name a few, which are great at eliciting the non-verbal response from our more reflective team members.

Having ongoing channels post-live events also provide reflection opportunities and a place where pre and post thoughts can all be captured to provide a more thoughtful and well-rounded output, Farmer said. When done well, this drives more diverse and inclusive working practices and wider reflections from different brains and personalities.

InfoQ interviewed Erica Farmer about hybrid and remote working.

InfoQ: How can we improve the way that we digitally collaborate?

Erica Farmer: Providing flexible frameworks and ways to engage are key. Whether through technologies such as interactive whiteboards for projects, or polling opportunities for engaging team meetings, managers and leaders must embrace these skills.

We can no longer just pick up what we used to do "in-person" and just drop it online - the mindset and skill set shift is undeniable. Creativity, interaction, and facilitation are the new kids in town, and managers need to be upskilled to be able to engage their team in the right way. Again, all of this must be underpinned by trust.

InfoQ: What do you expect that the future will bring us in hybrid and remote working?

Farmer: The need for organisations to be more agile, flexible and purposeful, whilst maintaining their competitive edge, will only increase, so managers and leaders need to consider the management tool kit as part of this. Organisations need to ditch the vanilla management training and think about genuine collaborative skills to support their teams.

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