Training managers succeed in hybrid environments using soft skills that best enable their roles. They become successful leaders when they experiment, with practical intent, different approaches or methods with the specific purpose of achieving measurable results.

Meet Alex and Sarah, two skilled and knowledgeable training leaders. For illustration, Alex’s primary role is as a team leader, while Sarah’s is as a peer influencer. They face some common hybrid workplace challenges. Yet, they approach their challenges with the nature of their work and team structures in mind.

Soft Skills for Effective Leadership in a Hybrid Environment

Alex leads a team of ten who work on learning projects for a large, structured organization. Their focus is to keep projects on time and within budget as a hybrid team across time zones.

What essential soft skills help Alex in leading a distributed team?

  • Communication: clear and frequent communication with a focus on providing feedback and guidance.
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ): understanding the motivations and concerns of team members adapting to hybrid.
  • Adaptability and flexibility: leading by example when adjusting to unexpected changes and challenges.
  • Collaboration and teamwork: facilitating collaborative teamwork to foster a sense of community and belonging.
  • Decision-making: this means making tough decisions that impact the whole team.

Sarah, in contrast, works as a training development team of one in a start-up hybrid workplace. The focus is working with peers and colleagues to achieve shared objectives.

Now, compare Sarah’s application of the same soft skills to influencing peers:

  • Communication: building relationships with peers means listening to their perspectives and tailoring messages.
  • EQ: understanding peers’ emotions to build rapport.
  • Adaptability and flexibility: awareness and adjusting to different work styles, backgrounds and agendas.
  • Collaboration and teamwork: engaging to collaborate across departments or organizations and build consensus.
  • Decision-making: the goal here is to get buy-in from peers to achieve a common goal.

Did you note the shift from wielding formal authority to social influence?

Balance of Soft Skills in Leading Teams vs. Influencing Peers

Alex and Sarah don’t operate in perfect worlds, always with the right skill balance. What does it look like when there is an overuse or underuse of any soft skill? And what are the consequences? Let’s consider.

Communication Imbalance

When there’s imbalanced team communication:

  • Overuse: micromanaging and lack of trust in team members.
  • Underuse: lack of direction and feedback, leaving team members feeling lost and unsupported.
  • Consequences: low morale, confusion, decreased productivity and higher turnover rates.

When there’s imbalanced peer communication:

  • Overuse: overtalking, being too forceful or not taking others’ perspectives into account.
  • Underuse: lack of relationship or rapport building.
  • Consequences: peers discount perspective or fail to engage in important decisions.

EQ Imbalance

For EQ, the imbalance can look like this:

  • Overuse: being too lenient, failing to provide constructive feedback.
  • Underuse: being too harsh or critical, failing to show empathy and support.
  • Consequences: decreased motivation and engagement, decreased productivity and high turnover rates.

When there’s an imbalance with peers:

  • Overuse: inability to handle conflict or disagreements.
  • Underuse: inability to connect with peers on a personal level.
  • Consequences: peers lack the trust or comfort to work together on initiatives.

Adaptability and Flexibility Imbalance

This is what an imbalance in adaptability and flexibility can look like:

  • Overuse: changing course or priorities, leading to confusion and lack of direction.
  • Underuse: rigid adherence to processes and procedures; resistance to change.
  • Consequences: decreased productivity; lack of progress.

When there’s an imbalance with peers:

  • Overuse: not setting boundaries, leading to peers taking advantage.
  • Underuse: inability to adapt to work styles or too rigid; difficulties with peers.
  • Consequences: projects may suffer or get delayed due to conflicts with peers.

Collaboration and Teamwork Imbalance

The stakes are high for an imbalance in collaboration and teamwork for teams:

  • Overuse: not allowing team members to work alone.
  • Underuse: not facilitating collaboration or teamwork; silos or conflicts within the team.
  • Consequences: team members may feel stifled or unsupported.

And when there’s an imbalance with peers:

  • Overuse: indecision, not making tough decisions.
  • Underuse: not building consensus.
  • Consequences: projects suffer or get delayed due to conflicts or indecision.

Decision-Making Imbalance

An imbalance in decision-making can look like this:

  • Overuse: being too authoritative and not taking team members’ input into account.
  • Underuse: not taking charge or being decisive, leading to lack of direction or clarity.
  • Consequences: team members may feel demotivated or not valued, and productivity may suffer.

When there’s an imbalance with peers:

  • Overuse: being too forceful or not taking other’s perspectives into account.
  • Underuse: not being assertive enough.
  • Consequences: project progress suffers due to lack of action or from peer pushback.

Managing Soft Skills Development

The right balance is not about achieving perfection. It’s about recognizing imbalance and tweaking where the context requires it. In a skill deficit, use resources and opportunities to strengthen those soft skills.

Consider the following practical tips:

Embrace Continuous Learning

Leaders can test themselves for the right balance of soft skills application. Ask questions of the team or colleagues via survey or one on one. Then reflect, act and ask again.

Here are sample questions for the team:

  1. Does the team feel empowered to contribute to decision-making processes?
  2. Does the leader provide clear direction and guidance, allowing flexibility and creativity?
  3. Is there a culture of collaboration and open communication within the team?

Consider these questions in terms of peer influence:

  1. Do peers feel that their ideas and perspectives have influence on decision-making?
  2. Do peers view you as a collaborative leader who values their input and contributions?
  3. Do you communicate a clear vision and goals while open to feedback and suggestions?

Foster positive and productive hybrid working relationships with regular reviews. Rank collaboration, communication, and respect for others’ input and feedback as a priority.

Use Tools and Technologies as Levelers

Using tools and technology can ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to take part. Incorporate ideas like these to make this work:

  • Build consensus around new workplace norms (e.g., work hours, response times, rules of engagement).
  • Produce shareable and archivable artefacts like recordings, video call transcripts, collaborative meeting minutes.
  • Encourage writing proposals and designs in the open where others can contribute.
  • Experiment with broadcasting regular achievements to boost morale and ownership.

Continue To Aim for 1% Better

Developing these soft skills is not a destination. It’s about adopting an ongoing 1% better mindset.

By experimenting with practical intent, leaders are able to learn from their experiences and develop effective strategies for leading others toward success.