hybrid teams

by Guy Harris

Coaching team members can be challenging even when everyone is in the same place. Coaching a team with everyone working remotely introduces additional challenges. And coaching a team with some members working in the office and others working remotely (a hybrid team), introduces still more challenges. Coaching a hybrid team of leaders who also lead hybrid teams steps up the challenges again. 

Here are some of the challenges both you and the leaders you lead might face in this situation:

  • Communication breakdowns and miscommunications
  • Limited knowledge of what is actually happening in terms of both environment and output for different members of your team
  • Limited awareness of struggles and frustrations your team members deal with on a daily basis
  • Limited ability to resolve your team members daily struggles and frustrations 

If you are trying to help other leaders work through the coaching challenges they face while working with a hybrid work team and you have limited experience with the environment yourself, you have a perfect storm for stress and frustration.

That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that the principles of effective coaching do not change just because the techniques or the technology do. Coaching is still about:

  • Helping people to Identify gaps between where they are and where they want to be, and
  • Helping them plan steps for closing those gaps.

Despite the coaching challenges created by a hybrid environment, there are things you can do to make coaching work. While this is not an all-inclusive list, here are five ways you can succeed in coaching the leaders on your team to become better leaders in a hybrid work environment.

Admit what you don’t know or have experience with

The leaders you lead know that you have no more experience in a hybrid environment than they do. It’s not really a secret. So, turn it to an advantage.

When you admit the limits of your knowledge and experience, you build – not hurt – your credibility with your team. Acknowledging these limits creates an environment where you and the leaders you lead can honestly engage in conversation to find better ways to deal with the hybrid work environment. In the process of learning and growing together, remember to continue:

  • Seeking and sharing outside resources for your growth and your team’s development.
  • Seeking help and perspective from others who are working through these issues. 
  • Trying new approaches, techniques, and tools to find what works best for you and your team.

Make it collaborative

This idea is a continuation of admitting what you don’t know. Since you and your team are both learning how to lead and coach in a hybrid work environment, invite ideas and input from your team on how to do the work of leadership better. Share experiences – both good and bad – so that you and your team continue learning and growing together.

Schedule time for conversations

Accidental or incidental conversations are not likely to happen with everyone. Invest the time and energy necessary to create the conversations that need to happen to make coaching work. 

Ask more than you tell

Since you are learning with your team, beware of the temptation to slip in to “teacher mode” and start pontificating on the best way to move forward. Invite the leaders on your team into conversation by asking them how to solve problems. Getting their input will take both the pressure and focus off of you, and it will help them grow in their leadership abilities.

Focus on learning and connection more than on correction and instruction

This idea is related to the concept of asking more than telling. When you ask for input and solutions, you invite conversation and create a shared learning environment where everyone can learn and grow.

While a hybrid work environment does create new challenges and obstacles for coaching, the fundamentals don’t really change. You probably see that the five suggestions above are not new to the hybrid work environment. All of the suggestions fit the fully collocated work team situation as well as they do the hybrid environment. If you keep the principles of effective coaching in mind, you can succeed no matter what happens with work environment or technology change.

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