In her latest blog on our return to the office, Colliers UK HR Director Lydia Ings discusses leadership in an agile working world.
As we prepare for our return to the office we are talking with our leadership, managers and people about the future of agile working at Colliers.
Remote working throughout the pandemic has taught us a huge amount about how we work, how we maintain excellent client service and how we continue to collaborate. While listening to the response of our people and clients during this time, we’ve come up with three role profiles as part of our Agile Working framework. At the heart of the profiles is client service: how can we help our people balance their time to do what is best for their clients whilst also allowing time for collaboration with colleagues and internal teams in the office; for meeting with clients; or for working remotely to focus on projects, reports and pitches.
One thing we do know from the last 16 months of working is there’s no one size fits all solution and that we have to be conscious of the whole person when establishing our new ways of working.
I’m a firm believer that anyone can be a leader in an organisation, despite their rank in the hierarchy, and as those leaders, we must set the tone and be aware of the shadow we cast – what people see us doing, is taken as the way to behave. Leaders can shape success and help navigate this time of change by guiding and encouraging colleagues, as well as being honest in communication and if necessary constructively challenging the organisation, in order to ensure that we can all reach our collective goal – making agile working, work.
Start from a position of trust
The way we manage people has to change. For too long we’ve focussed on a model determined by visibility rather than outputs. The last year should have put that concept to bed; now we must manage with a focus on deliverables. We can use tools like the SMART anagram: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based but we also need to adjust what we define as outputs; it may not necessarily be something tangible or which can be observed, sometimes it’s a behaviour such as collaborating and building relationships but it may not be as obvious because we’re no longer physically seeing everyone every day of the working week.
As we interact and communicate with our teams, we must be mindful of fairness and equity. Two-way and mutual trust is essential for successfully navigating this new world. We must avoid remote micro-management, but also avoid the trap of individuals working in silos remotely. We must still have a regular one-to-one time, just as you would in the office, and work on building and maintaining relationships both face-to-face as well as remotely.
As we juggle multiple demands, we must be aware of our people’s wellbeing. Our senses need to be on high alert for red flags that may indicate someone is not coping – it’s easier to hide problems when you’re not face-to-face. Watch out for messages at abnormal hours, work that is not at its usual standard, or whether they’re ducking out of team meetings or keeping their camera off. It’s harder to break down a barrier virtually, but ignoring problems only leads to bigger issues; managers need to foster an open dialogue with their team members, deal with any challenges decisively, honestly and quickly in order to form lasting, effective relationships.
Reconnecting in person
We need to rethink how we use our time in the office – managing our diaries in a different way. When visiting the office there’s no point in being on back-to-back virtual calls. If you’re having meetings do them in person, otherwise clear your diary to be available to connect with your colleagues in the office.
Also consider having at least one common day together a week to reconnect as a team or for a specific training or brainstorming session. This helps the group dynamic and also makes sure that everyone is up to speed with the current and upcoming priorities. It also helps to foster creativity, as our shared knowledge and insights are what help to identify the next opportunities for our business and clients. While you’re in the office also speak to other teams and share ideas, maybe even do the traditional walking the floor as well, because those casual chats we don’t have when working remotely can sometimes spark big ideas. Then the remaining working week can be agile around individuals’ client and role commitments.
Finally, we have to shift our own mindset after over a year of being told to keep ourselves safe, and to keep our own “bubble” healthy. As we emerge into a new way of working we must stop thinking about the “I” and begin thinking about the “we” again. None of us are an island and work is not about the individual, but the team and wider business success. We won’t get it right first time and we will learn as we go but if we come at it with a learning mindset then we can also evolve and adjust to what works – remembering that one size does not fit all.
We are all part of the bigger picture and by communicating honestly and being accountable for our part of the jigsaw, and getting stuck in as a team, we can achieve our plan for our clients and business.
Lydia’s next blog will look at how to handle hybrid meetings.
About the Author
Lydia Ings has more than 25 years of experience in Human Resources and an extensive knowledge of the real estate market. She has worked across the full spectrum of HR; including talent acquisition, graduate development, training & career development, operations, and business partnering.
To get in touch, contact Lydia.Ings@colliers.com.