The rise of the “work anywhere” world has opened new possibilities for franchise employers and workers alike. While the flexibility and perks of remote and hybrid work make those models appealing to many, it’s important for leadership to have a strategy in place for team building and culture concerns, both of which require an adjusted approach outside of the traditional office model.
THE RISE OF DISTRIBUTED LEADERSHIP
Distributed leadership models are quickly growing in popularity. As the name suggests, this organizational style moves away from traditional, hierarchical models, and towards a structure where people have more autonomy to innovate around a shared goal. The idea is to build a leadership framework allowing individuals to lend and blend expertise and ideas in the best way possible.
“A leader’s job isn’t to be the smartest people in the room who have all the answers, but rather to architect the gameboard where as many people as possible have permission to contribute the best of their expertise, knowledge, skills, and ideas,” according to MIT lecturer Kate Isaacs. This leadership model emphasizes diversity of thought and skills, providing a clearer path for individuals to innovate, share knowledge, adapt to changes, and learn from each other.
Moving to a distributed leadership model won’t happen all at once. A 2015 paper by Deborah Ancona, Elaine Blackman, and Isaacs offered six suggestions for effectively making the change:
- When lower-level people have ideas about already-vetted new strategic objectives, let them participate and even lead the change process
- Give individuals more of a say in matching themselves with roles, regardless of formal titles or organizational placement
- Have honest conversations about what potential team members can commit
- Provide coaching and support throughout the shift to this model, as well as opportunities for employees to network and collaborate outside of the “typical” hierarchy
- Shift understanding of senior leadership to “architect” style roles
- Understand that some combination of “command-and-control” and “cultivate-and- coordinate” styles will be necessary 2
Under this model, leaders must hold organizations accountable. Distributed leadership runs on trust, so trust must be built and carefully maintained. But in a world seeking more flexibility out of work, this model may hold the key to effective work and much-needed fresh perspectives.
BUILDING A CULTURE REMOTELY
There’s more than leadership styles to consider when it comes to team building. As teams shift to partially or fully remote work, the question of building culture inevitably rears its head—and it’s not a question that comes with an easy answer.
“Candidates are seeking workplaces where they can intertwine their beliefs with those of the company and work together on a common vision of purpose and success,” says the Harvard Business Review. Whether in the office or remotely, one of the most essential components to building a company culture is building a clear sense of shared values and goals.
Remote work can be productive, but it also can lead to work silos.
Creating a sense of proximity, from more of an emotional and creative standpoint, can also help to lessen the figurative and literal distance created by remote work. Proximity is all about how we feel, not just where we physically are. Virtual connection is one piece of the puzzle, but not the only one. Ultimately, it’s more about finding creative ways to get employees to feel invested in each other’s success and the organization’s success overall.
One technique meeting with mixed results is the increased use of virtual “hangouts.” Many employees find that these remote, required interactions (virtual happy hours, trivia contests, and so on) feel forced and awkward, and early evidence suggests that these superficial interactions are not really effective for building deeper connections and culture. There aren’t clear answers yet, but it seems that using creativity will
be important when devising unique ways to encourage interaction and a sense of belonging rather than a sense of obligation to log onto a faux-social Zoom call.
REMOTE WORK AND CREATIVITY
Those same questions of culture also trickle down to another important intangible: creativity. While “forced” collaboration may help in small ways by simply getting people to talk to each other, it should be strategic, not rote. Organizations may want to consider creating cross-team collaboration and networking opportunities rather than “activities” or “social hours.”
Remote work can be productive, but it also can lead to work silos, where employees or teams find themselves isolated and lacking ideas beyond their field of vision. There’s no way around the fact that creativity does change with the shift to remote work because the collaboration style is necessarily different. Leadership needs to develop flexible strategies while recognizing that not every strategy will work for every team.
Some teams may decide to combine remote work with occasional in-person collaborations and meetings. Research has found that in-person teams produced more creative ideas than remote teams, which is potentially tied to how people interact with their surroundings, physically move in space, and interact with each other. A hybrid approach combining purposeful remote gatherings and strategic in-person sessions may alleviate some frustrations without feeling artificial to employees.
However, an alternate view is that remote work (or hybrid work) actually allows for more creativity. In theory, some workers may find the traditional eight- hour office routine too structured and monotonous to achieve and maintain a creative problem-solving mindset. By using both the office space and the home office space for what they’re “best” for (i.e., work at home on individual projects for fewer distractions, come to the office for collaboration), employees could experience more variety and, perhaps, more creativity.
In the end, that’s what building a successful remote team is all about: finding the right balance that allows teams to excel and thrive in ways we never thought about before.
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