Multimodal Team Leadership Is the Way of the Future

COVID-19 is hastening the transition to hybrid work models, which necessitates a fundamental shift in the abilities required of team leaders.

A pre-COVID-19 shift in how individuals and teams undertake intellectual work has been accelerated by the pandemic. Routine transactions and coordination duties can be done entirely remotely, but work requiring actual team cooperation (collective learning, invention, and the creation of a common culture) is still best done in person. We believe that teamwork in the post-pandemic era will be an intentional blend of virtual coordination and in-person collaboration.

In this new hybrid environment, effective leadership necessitates talents that go beyond traditional team leadership. Organizations will require leaders who can work effectively in two different modes. They'll be in virtual coordinating mode for the majority of the time. This entails setting objectives, tracking progress, facilitating information sharing, and maintaining ties among remote colleagues. Leaders will need to work in face-to-face collaboration mode when their teams meet on a regular basis to engage in meaningful collaboration, enabling deep learning, invention, acculturation, and dedication.

The ways in which those teams work will be determined by the nature and mix of team tasks. Reporting, doing administrative activities, making easy judgments, sharing information, producing agreements, and performing financial analysis are all jobs that will be done digitally. Similarly, our research and experience have demonstrated that the majority of one-on-one contacts between leaders and their reports, including some coaching, can be efficiently performed through virtual methods.

Essential jobs that require team members to integrate their knowledge, create safe places for discourse on challenging problems, and form emotional relationships, on the other hand, cannot be accomplished effectively while working electronically. Given the existing constraints of technology, team efforts to achieve breakthrough ideas, solve complicated problems, build culture, and handle conflicts, for example, are still considerably more effective in person.

These challenging jobs are difficult to complete remotely because they entail four dimensions of impact that are better serviced by face-to-face interactions:

Collaboration entails not only content coordination and collaboration, but also the development of shared understanding, relationships, and trust.

Innovation necessitates brainstorming, knowledge integration, and collaborative learning, all of which necessitate trust and time together in a stress-free atmosphere.

Acculturation is the process of developing mutual understanding, reinforcing norms, and forming a common identity over a long period of time.

Dedication stems from a common sense of purpose, a sense of belonging to a community, and the opportunity to advance professionally.

The ramifications for leadership in the future are enormous. The types of talents required to successfully lead virtual and in-person teams are shifting in the multimodal workplace. As they adjust to managing a mixed workforce, executives will need to play four responsibilities in particular. The relative relevance of these factors will be determined by the degree of team collaboration and integration.

Conductor. The Conductor is primarily a virtual team leader who ensures that plans, decisions, information, and accomplishments are disseminated among team members in order to organize and motivate them. The position is comparable to that of an orchestra director, who ensures that musicians perform effectively both individually and in concert. Leaders in the Conductor role maintain connection, trust, and engagement with team members while managing goal setting, simple planning, decision-making, work coordination, and progress tracking.

Leaders must strike the correct balance between exhibiting genuine concern and participation and micromanaging, which depletes morale, in order to succeed in this job. The pandemic has underlined how draining repeated video calls can be, necessitating Conductors to be extremely effective and engaged in their virtual team time management.

Catalyst. When people get together in person, the Catalyst encourages collaboration, inspires creativity and invention, builds a common culture, and promotes dedication. To do so, these leaders must establish trust and create a psychologically safe environment. When discussing ideas, this helps them to facilitate in-depth debate and stimulate creative conflict — rather than detrimental personality confrontations. The term "catalyst" is used to signify that the emphasis is on allowing others to shine and facilitating collaboration processes.

Coach. Leaders must fulfill the role of Coach when working one-on-one with their reports, whether digitally or in person. This entails concentrating on assisting their employees in achieving top performance while fostering trust and emphasizing their well-being and professional development. To do this role well, you'll need a high level of emotional intelligence as well as the ability to strike a balance between demonstrating empathy and motivating individuals to push past their limits. Coaching, when done correctly, may improve relationships, engagement, and productivity.

Champion. Unlike the Conductor, Catalyst, and Coach roles, which require leaders to manage individuals and teams who report directly to them, the Champion role requires leaders to advocate for their teams externally. It necessitates leaders securing team resources, accessing critical information sources, communicating accomplishments, and establishing trust with peers and other key stakeholders in person and electronically. As a result, the Champion role necessitates negotiating, persuading without formal authority, and forging alliances.

The necessity for leaders to create and maintain connections and trust is a common thread that runs through all four roles. Before the epidemic, many organizations were hesitant to adopt remote work because they lacked confidence in their employees' ability to work productively from home. At the same time, managers' ability to monitor performance was questioned. However, multimodal leadership requires the development and maintenance of trust, especially when the team is working digitally.

Fostering trust manifests itself in different ways in each of the four C roles. Leaders in the Conductor role build trust by sharing accomplishments so that everyone knows how their coworkers contribute to the team's success. We are typically wary of our peers in the virtual world, and emotions can run high in a crisis. Another method to build trust is to check in with your team members on a regular basis to see how they are doing, how their work is progressing, and what assistance they may require. This is one of the most important aspects of emotional intelligence, and it can also help to boost team spirit. Checking in on a personal level is also an important part of the Coach's job.

These trust-building techniques work well online, but when teams meet in person, leaders will want to play the Catalyst role, in which trust is critical in fostering innovation and creativity. People need to feel free to try new things and express their moonshot ideas without fear of being judged. As a result, the Catalyst role demands leaders to foster healthy, secure ties with their people by facilitating rather than commanding. Managers must strike a balance between confidence and humility, as well as social awareness.

The more experienced you are in an organization, the more important the Champion job becomes. Many firms' matrix organizational designs need executives relying on organizational influence rather than authority to secure the resources needed for teams and contribute meaningfully to the company's overall goals. We establish trust with our colleagues in the Champion role by showing interest in their goals and prioritizing organizational goals over our own team's ambitions.

As they play these four responsibilities, leaders must acknowledge that they may require assistance in order to provide support to their teams. Because the Conductor role requires many classic management and leadership abilities, such as monitoring, delegating, decision-making, and motivating, most leaders are already adept at it. The Catalyst and Coach roles, on the other hand, require distinct sets of talents and attitudes. Facilitation skills, emotional intelligence, and humility come to mind here.

Team leaders must learn to adapt the four roles of multimodal leadership to be successful in this new era: Conductor, Catalyst, Coach, and Champion. In the post-pandemic world of work, these four positions give a foundation for effective leadership.

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