Leadership in the Hybrid World

In this episode, we explore the dynamic landscape of leadership in the hybrid world. The conversation dives into practical strategies for navigating the challenges of hybrid work. Uma Sankar, the Head of Organization Development, emphasizes the importance of transparent communication, balancing work-life dynamics, and cultivating cross-functional leaders in this hybrid working world.

Podcast Audio Transcript

Mimi: Hello listeners, this is Mimi; thank you for tuning in to yet another exciting and informative podcast from us at Infosys BPM. Today, we are discussing Leadership in the Hybrid World. And to talk about this, we have here with us, Uma Sankar, VP & Head – Organization Development. Welcome Uma. How are you today?

Uma: I’m doing well, Mimi. It’s great to be back in a podcast.

Mimi: We are, as always, excited to listen to you.

So, Uma, we know that in today’s hybrid work environment, most employees haven’t seen the office itself. A question arises in our minds: How can companies establish a cohesive company culture and foster connectedness in such a hybrid work environment?

Uma: Yes, that’s something most of us have thought about, isn’t it Mimi? More than 60% of our employees have not seen our offices. Hence, establishing a cohesive company culture in a hybrid work environment requires a multifaceted approach, I would say. Beyond the physical office, leaders should emphasize the integration of cultural elements into the fabric of daily work.

Companies don’t make the culture. It is people who define an organization’s culture. So, what we do and how we do things at work, matters.

To start with, celebrate small moments, have regular virtual team building activities and acknowledge achievements. Leveraging technology to provide interactive platforms and open forums can help maintain a connected and engaged workforce. It is not just about engagement but also about inclusivity. Make sure that those who work remotely get an opportunity to voice their thoughts – invite them to contribute – these are the ways to ensure that we connect with everyone. Building a deep understanding of one’s team in a hybrid work model involves consistent and intentional efforts. There are situations that need a good in-person interaction, like a goal review, career growth discussion, or onboarding to a new team. We must use these moments to connect with one another in-person.

Mimi: Excellent points. This will for sure build a deeper connect among the team members.

As we all know, communication plays a vital role in a hybrid work setting. How can leaders effectively communicate decisions and maintain clarity within their teams?

Uma: Yes, effective communication is the linchpin of successful leadership in a hybrid work setting.

Leaders should adopt a transparent and inclusive approach, clearly articulating decisions and the rationale behind them. Different messages require different formats. A difficult message is best done over a phone call while an update on a new deal can go through an email. Wherever possible, pick the most human method of communication. I believe no one wants their calendar blocked for an hour when a 10-minute phone call would suffice.

Emphasizing the human aspect of communication, leaders should encourage open dialogue, active listening, and regular feedback sessions. This approach not only maintains clarity but also cultivates a culture of trust and openness within the team.

Mimi: I completely agree. In fact, I read a statistic that about 11 million meetings are held in the US alone every single day.

Balancing work-life and autonomy can be challenging in a hybrid setup. How can leaders address the blurred boundaries and prioritize employee well-being?

Uma: Leaders must proactively address the challenges associated with work-life boundaries in hybrid work-life. With no office environment to exit from, people invariably extend their working hours when operating from home.

Encouraging breaks during the workday, perhaps by scheduling shorter meetings or allowing flexible hours, can help prevent burnout.

Micromanagement and lack of empowerment and trust can make it extremely stressful. Managers should outline the outcomes and milestones and performance should be evaluated more on impact and results. Trust is a foundational element in a hybrid work model. But don’t forget, with empowerment comes accountability. While we empower teams, we also want teams to take on more ownership and take responsibility for their actions.

Mimi: The quality of leadership is also crucial for a successful work-life for employees.

In your opinion, how can organizations build strong cross-functional leaders in a hybrid work model?

Uma: Yes, that’s correct Mimi. Building strong cross-functional leaders in a hybrid work model involves creating intentional spaces for leadership development. Cohorts of leaders can engage in collaborative projects that align with the organization's strategic goals.

Our annual performance evaluation has 2 components that get evaluated- project goals and individual goals. Our rewards and recognition programs are tied to collaboration and teamwork. One of the key tenets of our leadership development framework is unlocking synergies. Every year, post our strategy retreat we work in cross functional teams to deliver the top 5 strategic priorities. So, you see collaboration and cross functional alignment built into every aspect of talent management.

Mimi: Thank you so much, Uma. Those were some important points you mentioned.

Uma: It was indeed a pleasure Mimi to be back in this excellent podcast.

Mimi: Dear listeners, if you enjoyed our podcast today, please don’t forget to share and like it on social media. Our social handles are mentioned on the podcast page. The podcast will be available on various platforms like Google Podcasts and Spotify, in addition to our website.

Also, if you have any queries, do reach out to us through the email address on the podcast description. Watch this space for more exciting podcasts coming up. Once again, thank you for tuning in, stay safe and stay sharp. Have a nice day!

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