The hardest thing for C-suite leaders to say is often the most important thing: “I don’t have all the answers.”
That sentence has the advantages of being true and honest, telling others that you’re grounded in reality (a good place to start), and are coming from a place of humbly seeking solutions. It’s also a clarion call for conversation, the start of a collective journey toward better decision-making.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of leadership at a time of hybrid work. Here are some of my thoughts, which I’ll call “considerations” (because I don’t have all the answers either). You’re welcome to take, leave, or tweak these considerations in any way you’d like:
1. Communicate challenges to your team and builds stronger bonds
There are times when someone at the top needs to be decisive because inaction makes the problem worse and other scenarios when listening, inclusion and careful collaboration are the best way forward. When a natural disaster strikes, for example, people look to leaders for clear direction. Leadership is nothing if not contextual.
As hybrid work becomes a global experiment we’re all involved in, one person making the decisions for everyone else simply won’t work. Communicate broadly with your team to better understand their concerns and find solutions that work for everyone. People won’t march blindly based on anyone’s command, you need to build relationships and trust if you want to succeed as a leader.
There’s an African proverb that speaks to the role of leaders in a hybrid work world: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We’re in that second scenario where quick fixes won’t work and we need to go together, however messily.
2. Develop feedback loops to support decision making
Great leadership is often about setting the table – creating a solid decision-making process, framing the organization’s challenges, then allowing people a seat. When more people are involved in making the decisions, gaining “buy-in” becomes easier.
Leaders build ecosystems that nurture people and drive decision-making based on feedback. Employees notice when you listen; they also notice when you don’t.
Building the ongoing capacity to “sense and respond” is what modern business is all about. Your organization works to understand the needs and preferences of its customers (and prospects), and works to address those needs with well-designed solutions.
We call this customer experience. Why should it be different for your employees? How can you drive a first-rate customer experience if your employee experience is second rate? You need to gather employee feedback and respond with relevant actions. That requires setting up a continuous feedback loop, something Robin can help you enable.
3. Focus on building trust, culture, and employee experience.
At Robin, we’re all about building solutions for hybrid work. We build great technology and great tech features that support productivity and employee experience, but that’s not the only thing we do.
We help employers remove the stress, friction, and hassle that comes with hybrid work. We focus on that “bigger picture” of productivity and employee experience because getting that right builds trust, helps you retain and engage talent, lets your people optimize how, when, and where they do their best work, and results in a better bottom line for people and profits.
What matters most to us are likely things that matter for you too. We’re not in business to build “cool features,” we’re here to be a trusted partner in your ongoing hybrid work journey.
4. Build shared no matter where people work.
Anyone who says “trust me” right out of the gate probably can’t be trusted. They’re starting from a place of not understanding what trust is. It’s earned over time – show me, don’t tell me.
Employees have agency and choice about what organization they want to work for. As “the Great Resignation” has shown, employers can push employees, but employees can always vote with their feet. “We pay you so we can tell you what to do,” just might be the worst retention strategy ever. You can’t bully top talent.
Try listening instead of making pronouncements. Take the “sense and respond” approach that we at Robin believe in so passionately. Whatever the future of work brings, we want to go together with you and your team.
Leadership isn't static
It's always changing. It'll take time to figure out what exactly your team needs as you venture into the world of hybrid work, but communication, trust, and shared purpose will help keep your teams happy and engaged through all of the ups and downs.
If you're leading a hybrid team and need some guidance, read our report "The Three Pillars of Great Hybrid Leadership" for insight into what your people are looking for from leadership.