April 1, 2022

April 1st Edition - 8 Lessons Star Wars teaches us about Hybrid Work

My recent mild case of Covid was all the excuse I needed to re-watch the Star Wars movies and it struck me that this saga was more than a hero's journey of good versus evil...it's a story about working remotely. Think about it. Teammates are working far, far away, characters frequently catch up via video (ok, hologram) calls, data security is nightmare, Chewbacca doesn’t wear pants and everyone wears masks.

So here are 8 lessons Star Wars can teach us about working in a hybrid / remote world…(Star Wars geeks only, please)

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1)     Digital Body Language matters. If you are working remotely, spend time upgrading your sound, camera and lighting. Small upgrades make a big difference. See how much better the Emperor looks above on the right hand picture? Way to go with the lighting and just the right amount of makeup, buddy. Start with these easy video tutorials. Also, When holding conference calls, there is no hybrid. Conference rooms are not equipped for effective hybrid calls. They tend to further divide teams and the body language and sound quality are largely diminished for those dialing in. Unless you have a kick-ass hologram set up, do a remote team call or do not. For conference calls, there is no hybrid.

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2) Get away from your home every once in a while. Take advantage of the flexibility provided by remote work. Get quality noise canceling headphones and take walking meetings. Working remotely creates new options but only if you take advantage of them. Explore the galaxy. You've earned it.

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3)    Whether face-to-face or remote, get a coach. Surveys suggest that coaching is one of the most important pieces of working in hybrid and remote teams. Yet the skills of coaching are often overlooked and managers confuse giving feedback with coaching. Check out Michael Bungay Stanier's work to learn better coaching habits.

Coaching should be with you, always.

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4)     Prepare for high turnover. Employees are leaving in droves and there are two common reasons why this is happening. They are either frustrated with the company’s bureaucratic and inflexible working arrangements (forcing people back to the office), or they are fed up with bad managers who leave them feeling micromanaged and disrespected. The answer lies in fixing these structural problems and this topic is for a different post, but for now, prepare for ongoing disruptions from extensive employee turnover.

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5)     Speaking of employees leaving, be on the lookout for important team members who don’t get the recognition they deserve. It's easy for quiet or introverted employees to get overlooked especially in remote or hybrid settings. Don’t forget the unsung heroes working diligently to keep everything running smoothly. Check out Heather Hansen's new book, Unmuted to learn how to show up, speak up and inspire action.

Someone, give this guy a medal.

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6)     When it comes to working in a hybrid and remote teams, you must unlearn what you have learned. Cliché but true, this statement is. Office norms, whether they make sense or not, no longer apply. Unlearn them.

·      9 to 5 is, or should be, dead.

·      We should be finding better ways to measure output rather than input. Put another way, output is getting results and input is talking a good game about getting results. Let's focus on output.

The rules have changed, so re-write them. Team communication contracts are a great place to start.

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7)     Bureaucracy Strikes Back. The pandemic forced organizations to work remotely. This caused hierarchies to flatten, but as offices re-open, the bullshit of bureaucracies – a phrase I just coined due to the story I'm about to tell - is striking back. Here's what happened: During lockdown, one client stopped requiring hard copy "original" invoices be mailed to them and started accepted electronic copies, saving time, money and paper. They recently brought back the old rule requiring vendors print and mail invoices. Senseless bureaucracy.

Employees across the globe say that many good changes happened to their companies because of the lockdowns. Words like “autonomy” and “flexibility” are often used. These trends towards self-reliance are coming under attack as organizations begin staggering back to the office and re-establishing top-down driven procedures.

The 2019 business book Humanocracy explores how and why companies of all sizes should break apart bureaucracies. “Ultimately you have to change the core processes by which your company is run – planning, resource allocation, project management, product development, performance assessment, promotion, compensation, hiring, training and all the rest.” The pandemic forced us to work differently. Let's not go back to those dark times.

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8)     Celebrate the wins, both big and small. Look out for one another and enjoy the fact that hybrid / remote work may be the first step into a bigger world.

Like most things, it takes training, teamwork and a little CGI to make this story work. This is where the fun begins, so enjoy the ride.

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