The Secret to Hybrid Teamwork

Every week – sometimes every day – I have clients sharing with me the struggles they’re experiencing around making teams work effectively in this post-COVID reality.

With staff wanting more flexibility, constantly changing hybrid models, and the growing reality of “quiet quitting”, teamwork has never been more threatened.

The good news is that there is a way to tap into high performance teamwork in this new work world that we find ourselves in.

But before I share it with you, first you need to understand that there is a difference between a problem to solve and a tension to manage.

If something is a problem to solve, there is a simple solution, and once you apply that solution, the problem goes away.

Now, I’d love to tell you that when it comes to teamwork in this new work reality, there is a simple solution. But there’s not. It’s more complex than that.

You see, some challenges aren’t problems to solve, but instead tensions to manage. This means that instead of picking one simple solution, you have to hold two values in tension. It’s like breathing – I can’t wake up in the morning and decide it’s an “inhale” day. Inhaling and exhaling are a package deal. One can’t exist without the other.

And as a leader you’re already dealing with long list of these tensions to manage. On one hand you have to embrace change and innovation AND and on the other hand you have to preserve stability and core values. As a communicator you need to be truthful and candid AND yet at the same time, you have to be tactful and diplomatic.

Well right now, in this post-COVID workplace, there are two tensions that are absolutely make it or break it. Understanding and managing them well is critical, if you want your teams to thrive.

The first is the tension between Freedom AND Responsibility.

Right now, staff want and expecte more freedom than ever, and this is great because it can lead to efficiencies, ownership and an increase in personal engagement. But freedom without responsibility results in missed deadlines, dropped balls, and lack of ownership. It’s doesn’t work!

Embracing responsibility makes team members deliberate and mindful when taking action, and ensures people follow through on their commitments.

Freedom and Responsibility only work well when they are working together – and in the new hybrid work world that we’re living in this tension is foundational to team success.

The second tension that you need to manage well if you want your teams to thrive is focusing on task AND focusing on relationships.

I think COVID has taught us that we actually can still be incredibly task focused and get things done when we’re working remotely. But if we move forward only focusing on how to get work done and are not as focused on developing and leveraging our working relationships, people will start to feel more isolated and alone, team spirit and morale will go down, and you’ll lose the power of collaboration.

By intentionally and strategically focusing on developing team relationships, psychological safety and trust will go up, morale will increase, and your quality of work will improve by tapping into each other’s strengths.

To make teams work in this new post-COVID world, we need to find healthy tension between task AND relationship. It’s a package deal. One will not succeed without the other.

With remote and hybrid work models becoming less of a short-term fix and more of a long-term reality, high performance teamwork and collaboration is more challenging than ever. But it’s not impossible. And the great news is, if you and your team can start to understand and leverage these two tensions – Freedom AND Responsiblity & Task AND Relationship – you can tap into a competitive advantage in this new post-COVID workplace.

Tim Arnold

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