Hybrid Leadership – Be Conscious and Don’t Panic

Copyright Maria Lehtman

The original post on BIZCATALYST 360°

“Business decisions should be based on data. The approach how to treat another human being should be based on consciousness. The data is only there to support you. A culture of pure analysis without grace is just that: facts. Our complex beings demand much more imagination.” – Maria Lehtman

In the middle of trying to decide how to best serve people in the digital age, we seem to have set some of the non-digital essentials on the side. Many business cultures suffer from the fast technology and hybrid era leaps. Pandemic left a mark in every society. I cannot blame people for wanting to move forward as fast as possible, however, I do wonder about the cost of doing so. Do we still remember that in a global ecosystem everything influences everything?

Several people in my network are struggling to settle in their current job roles or manage to support their families as entrepreneurs. When I asked about what they see in the healthcare arena, I was told that waiting to see a therapist could take anything from six to 12 months, and this is in the public healthcare arena – in other words: affordable. We are also in a country with a good network of public healthcare. I can only imagine what it is like for the vast majority of countries where even physical healthcare is hard to come by. Where does that leave our employees when they need support? As a leader, do you understand the mental health balance of your staff?

Can companies and leadership do more for their people?

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” — Fred Rogers

The revolving door effect is becoming a norm. People, especially, talented ones, do not wait for the company to change – they change the company. In dialogues with employees from different generations, I gathered that anyone under 30 years of age was likely to wait for a maximum of one to two years to make a difference. The generations of 30-40 years might be more likely to give a company ca. 3 years to prove themselves worthy. If the employees felt that their contribution was not making a difference to anything, they saw it was useless to continue. They did not see any prospects to further their cause or career.

Many people are tired, overworked – everyone recognizes that but sometimes hands are tied to correct the course. Is that always the case? Hardly. Leadership now calls for anything else but setting examples of fear and panic. And yet, we seem to have landed in a situation where despite efforts to spread goodwill many people are suffering from stress and have no place to offload their feelings. Should we not have the greatest benefit culturally and business-wise to support people in staying healthier in their current roles?

Conscious leadership requires more than great digital tools and applications to retain people and a healthy productive business environment. Your tool kit to demonstrate Conscious Leadership can make a great difference during the months and years to come. Leading a hybrid organization is very different from leading people on-premise. All the data you can gather still does not allow you to access the motivational drivers of people unless you are willing to reach out to them and listen.

Toolkit for Hybrid Leadership of People

“Hybrid leadership is not about reinventing the (leadership) wheel but rather about shifting foci to practices and behaviors that better meet individual employees’ needs – also those of leaders.” – Pia Lappalainen, Senior Advisor, Aalto EE; Lecturer, Aalto University School of Business, Department of Management Studies

This topic could create a long list so I will keep it to the essentials

  1. SHOW VALUE. Does your team feel valued? How often do you check-in to thank them for the job well done, thank them, and hear their thoughts about what might have been done differently. Just because the job was succesfull does not mean that it should not be done differently next time around. Ensure you find a way to reward people. You may be surprised how even a little gesture makes a difference.
  2. SUPPORT. Do you question and collect proof for your teams when they need more assets and resources to perform their work? Do you pick up the fight to ensure they are treated farely and are not overworked in saving the day? Instead of saying no to requests due to lack of budget, be creative, reach out and do not leave it to your team to manage on their own. I have had managers who were solely focused on their work, and managers who took up the time to also fight the cause. It is not a difficult guess which ones allowed me to be more creative and forthcoming with ideas and allowed us to carry less stress.
  3. LISTEN. Sounds quite easy, doesn’t it? In reality it is quite difficult. When the employee has many things weighing on their minds, and you have as well, it is difficult to pick up the signs. You have to listen to the pauses, ask questions and be willing to step outside the comfort zone of “I’m fine.” It may take you more than one conversation to understrand the emotional drivers. Video conversations can be a challenging media to get used to. Introverts may not enjoy the rich media as much as extroverts. You may need to create the space for the team member to feel comfortable to speak up.
  4. SHOW EMPATHY. Empathy allows you to relate to other person’s emotions, however, not everyone can do that, at least, not easily. If you find it difficult the best way is to ask open questions and wait for the answers. Don’t try to lead the conversation but let the other person express themselves. Do not push your opinions or experiences, but continue to be a supportive listener. Ask how to best support your team member in the given situation. Imagine that you are in their shoes. How would you feel?
  5. ACT. If employees are asking for your support – ensure to act on it. Never dismiss them. Even if it is a mission impossible try to find ways to make compromises and give it a try. Take the issues further up the chain, and share them with your peers. We have many topics that we are still not allowing people to speak openly about. Diversity, true diversity, allows for all types of people in different situations to be equally treated. Start with your own blind spots when someone apporaches with a topic you are uncertain is suitable for a discussion. People should not feel they are weaker for being different, but that they bring value through different perspectives.
  6. TRUST. The hybrid environment of working is a circle of trust. You need to ensure there are proper tools for the employee to perform working offsite. If you have not started sharing virtual tools and supporting employees to apply devices best suited for their work remotely and in the office, now is the time to act. A trusted employee is a well-performing employee. I have not yet seen a high performance team slack from working remotely. I have worked with virtual teams throughout my career. On the contrary, you may have to watch out for them not to do too much.

Know that I speak from my heart because I can see that these six steps are still far from a reality in many organizations. I am happy where I am, I was listened to, and regarded for my perspectives. I know the difference. And I can see where companies are still trying to resolve issues with data, applications, and operational management – as smart working should. However, it only resolves half the issues. Behind every smart way of working is a team of people. Remember them and notice them. Create a path for them to follow. A journey they can relate to. People respond to how you lead them not what you lead them with. More than anything, be grateful and express it consistently and frequently.

“A conscious leader needs to be actively appreciative. We can be tough leaders at times, we can and should be strong, but at the end of the day, human beings respond best to care and appreciation. It’s important to remember that in business, everything we accomplish is ultimately done with and through other people. That is what conscious leaders do—we inspire, motivate, develop, and lead others. To be appreciative of the gifts that other people share with us and with our teams is uplifting and creates a rewarding feeling of fulfillment.” ― John Mackey, Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business