Earlier this year, I read Martine Haas’ article outlining her 5C Challenges of Hybrid Work. Simple, diagnostic and prescriptive, its practicality holds great appeal and I’ve shared it with a number of leaders I’m working with. It also came to the fore when I was recently discussing the value of collective leadership development in a hybrid work environment.
We know that learning together supports the development of shared situational awareness and shared mental models. These foundations of team effectiveness are especially relevant in virtual and dispersed environments. Being explicitly ‘on the same page’ in terms of roles, tasks, measures of success, etc. reduces the noise and frustration that can otherwise get in the way of team performance, especially in hybrid or dynamic contexts.
Leaders learning and developing together also creates consistency. This is not about all leaders being the same. Looking at it from the follower’s perspective; it’s about being able to predict how my leader and other leaders in my organisation will ‘show up’. Who leads me (the person holding the role the role) may change; but the leadership I experience is familiar. Collective development supports a focus on leadership as an organisational capability and shared responsibility, rather than the traditionally narrow focus on leaders as individuals.
The 5C hybrid work challenges outlined by Haas are also addressed by collective leadership development:
- Communication. Hybrid work brings further complexity to communication. Learning together, leaders learn and practice essential skills that support them to communicate more effectively in this at times complicated context.
- Coordination. Haas reports fault-lines emerging between those who work together in person and those work remotely. A challenge within teams, it is further amplified between teams, reinforcing silos and cliques. Collective development means peer leaders are regularly ‘in the room’ together, connecting, aligning and creating shared expectations about keeping each other informed and involved.
- Connection. Aligned with the kaupapa of Whakawhanaungatanga, this is not about cliched ‘rapport building’ activities; it is about genuine, supportive relationships. Peer coaching, within collective development, sets up mutually trusting and supportive leader relationships, that also enhance leader wellbeing and mental health.
- Creativity. Collective development encourages leaders to hear and explore others’ beliefs, assumptions and sense-making. This opens and broadens a leaders perspective, bringing new thinking to challenges and opportunities.
- Culture. Together, leaders can test assumptions, beliefs and expectations about values and culture. They can define collectively commit to the actions and behaviours that underpin organisational values and culture.
As well supporting your leaders to develop and bring the best leadership possible to their teams, investing in collective leader development aligns with these known hybrid work challenges. It also helps overcome the ‘ships passing in the night’ nature of hybrid work environments - without forcing a one-size-fits-all set of rules for ‘office time’.