A big part of the new normal involves people working from home and the office—something called hybrid working. While it may sound great, it can be a challenge to manage employees who are in different places. In this video, Kevin Eikenberry shares some tips on how to effectively manage a flexible team.
(upbeat music) - A big part of the new normal involves people working from home and the office. This is something called hybrid working. And while it may sound great, it can be a challenge to manage employees who are at two different places. I mean, how do you help people feel connected to each other and to the company when some are working remotely? And how do you facilitate meetings where everyone feels heard, regardless of whether they're in the room or on the screen. Hi, I'm Kelly Ruta with LinkedIn Learning, and today, Kevin Eikenberry is back to share some tips on how you can effectively manage your flexible team; Kevin, welcome. - Hey, I'm glad to be back. Thanks for having me. Flexibility. That's the key. Because the reality is the world is changing again, right? There was a day. Do you remember the day when everyone came to the office every day and all was well with the world? And then we had to send everybody home, and we sort of tried to figure out how to make that work. And maybe we have kind of made that work. Now, we brought some people back and for us as leaders, since we were probably the first ones to come back, we probably came back before everybody else. Oh, we're getting back to normal, but we've got to be really flexible, because there are challenges here that maybe you're not thinking about. You're feeling like, hey, we're heading back to normal. And immediately, if you're having that thought, you're no longer thinking about what might be half or more of your folks that you're not seeing every day. So we've got this hybrid team thing, in many ways is actually harder for everyone than when we went all remote. - What are some of those challenges that make it harder? - Well, you remember, or maybe you still have, the silos between the accounting department and the IT department, between manufacturing and sales, and between sales and operations. You know about silos and all silos are, are people operating under a set of goals that are focused on that group's work and we're sub-optimizing overall. Even though the decisions they make inside the silo make total sense, in the big picture, without a broader perspective, we're sub-optimizing. Well what happens now is we get micro silos when people are working in a hybrid team, and here are the new silos. They may still be in their IT, and HR, and operations silos. But the micro silo is those that are in the office, and those that aren't in the office. And those that are not in the office think those that are, are getting preferential treatment. You know, they're the ones that get access to the boss. They know what's going on more than we do out in our homes. And so there's all of those. The grass is always greener, right? For the people that are in, maybe some of them wish they could be out. Or they think that, man, they've got all the flexibility if they're out. And people that are out working at home, feel like, you know, those people in the office have got these other advantages that they don't have. Now in the short term, you may have another set of issues about who actually had to come in or got to come in, depending on people's perspective. Who got to stay home or had to stay home, depending on their perspective. And that could cause some other short term issues. But the longer term is what we just talked about, is that we run the risk of creating micro silos between those who are in the office and those who are not. And as leaders, we can overcome that, but first we have to see it. And hopefully this helps you see that that's going to happen or is happening to you. - So that brings up two questions for me, Kevin, The first is, you mentioned the ins and the outs, and people, you know, the grass is always greener. Do you recommend, as a manager, that people allow their employees to choose whether or not to come back in? So that's the first. And then the second is, how do you deal with the feelings that people are having of isolation or jealousy, or whatever other feelings they're having around those silos? - Well, let's start with the second part first. And that is that as a leader, now more than ever, you must learn to be empathetic. You've got to understand where people really are. Don't assume that those that got to stay home are going to love it or vice versa. Don't assume that those that came to the office are going to love getting to see you every day. So, spend time making sure that you understand where people are, what their thoughts and feelings are about it, so that you can help them work through it, or understand it. So that's where I would start. And so many leaders don't do that very well. So if you do that almost immediately, you're going to rise in the eyes of your team. Back to the other question, flexibility. Well, I think we must start with the work. We're here to reach outcomes. Our organization is trying to reach valuable outcomes. And so we must guide our decisions based on that. I mean, if there were some people that worked from home and it kind of worked, but we really needed that function in the office, or they still had to come in once in a while anyway? Those may be logical people to come back in. But if at the end of the day, it doesn't matter, rather than trying to get to some sort of quota. We want 25% in or whatever. To the degree that we can, I would allow for flexibility. So here's where I would come down. I don't know the answer in your organization about whether we tell people or whether you ask people. But I would say that everything else being the same, I want to lean toward giving people flexibility, because as a leader, what I think we all want is to have a team of people who are committed and not just complying. And if we can give people more say, more insight, and more chance to think about that, the better off we will be. After we decide what we have to have for the business. And even then, we can say, here's what we need for the business, and you might say, Kevin, I could come in. Could I come in two days a week and work from home three? Well, if your overall company policy allows that, why not? And I do think, Kelly, we're going to have a lot more of that. We're not just going to have the ins and outs. We're going to have the some in and some out, some of the time. And we got to make sure we're coordinating that. We got to make sure that we're communicating about that, so everybody knows where everybody is, so we can still get the right work done. It all points back to us being flexible. Right where we started. - It sounds like these are all lessons learned from things that you've done along the way that have worked well and things that maybe didn't work so well. So I want you to think back. I don't know, you've been doing this 25 years. So think back to some of those original meetings, or some of those original employees that were working flexible. Can you share a story with us or tell us a little secret that you went through that helped you to learn all of these things? - Yeah, so I got some people in the office and some people not. So I did what everybody does. You gathered the people that were in the office around the conference table and you had everyone else, at first it was calling in, right? So you had people calling in and you had people in the office, and the people who are calling in couldn't necessarily hear everybody in the office, except the person closest to the microphone, or whatever. And as a leader, who do I end up directing my conversation to? The people I can see, and the people I can see are the ones around me. So the people in Indianapolis, in our case, are the ones having the conversation. It ends up being a fishbowl. Everyone else is listening in. Well that's not the right answer, if I really want interaction. And fast forward to when we're on video cameras, the technology is now at a place where, you know, we can deal with a lot of those issues, but still, there are inequities and there are challenges. So if you have to have your meeting this way, make sure as the leader, that you're asking for input from the people that are virtual or remote first. They'll be included, and I'm not going to go based on my first impulse. So I need to do that for sure. - Is there something else that you'd recommend that was better? 'Cause you said maybe this wasn't the best option. - Oh yes. Yeah, absolutely. The best option is what seems odd. But even if people are in the office, have them go back to their desks. Everybody doing it the same way. In our case, sometimes four people in the office, doors closed, everyone on their webcams. And they're on equal footing with the people who are not here. Why? It's not about equality or fairness. It's about effectiveness of the meeting, because we don't have. It's easier for me to be equitable, and manage the flow as the facilitator, or whoever would be facilitating. But it's also far better. Everyone can hear each other equally, and all those sorts of things. One more thing about that is that many people say, well, I'll let everybody be on mute except for the speaker; I disagree. I mean, on our team, everyone's camera's on and their mute is off, unless they've got background noise or, you know, in some cases they're in an airport. Or if they know they've got background noise, and that's going to be distracting to everyone else, they're going to mute. Otherwise, I want them off mute. That keeps everyone engaged and it makes it more natural. We don't have to say, hey Barb, can you go off mute? Hey Kelly, we can't hear you. We can make it closer to a real meeting. Everyone's in their own office. even if some of them are under the same roof. - I love that. That's such a good idea. It immediately makes it so that, like you said, you can hear everybody, you can give your input in a very equitable fashion. Such a good idea. Any other lessons that you've learned? - Well, there's lots that we've learned. You've got to make sure that you keep on the top, in the top of your mind as the leader. Since you're experiencing an office environment again, that you're building relationships with everybody. I'll make one last thought about the meetings. And that is when, when we're all in the building, before a meeting started, we went into the conference room and we chatted before the meeting started. And now, when it's virtual, the last person to show up is usually the boss. And they're the ones starting the meeting. Don't do it that way. Open the meeting room early. Whether it's you or somebody else and let people, as they arrive, start to say hello, to greet each other, just to chat just like they were in the building. And they will do that. And it will be to your great advantage. And even as a leader sometimes, who has a strong belief in starting meetings on time, I've arrived and listened to that and let the richness of that happen for an extra minute or two, because otherwise you never get it. So capitalize on what worked in an old way of working, and use it in a new way. - What I'm hearing, Kevin, over and over, is people first. - Well, it's the people that do the work. And if you could do it without them, you wouldn't be a leader. You'd just be a worker. And so the reality is we've got to engage everyone. We want to create commitment and not compliance. And we can definitely do that with a hybrid team, providing greater flexibility for everybody perhaps, but we've got to be even more intentional. We've got to be even more focused, and we have to not just rely on the way we used to do it, but we have to be more intentional about how we lead, if we're going to lead a hybrid team. - Very true. Well, Kevin, thank you for your insight today. We really, really appreciate it. - And it was a pleasure. Thank you. - And thank you for joining us, as we think through some ideas on how to effectively manage flexible teams, as we reinvent work, together.
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