ANALYSIS: Last month, my articles introduced you to my Leading Hybrid Teams model and the center of the model — forming, storming, norming and performing.

This month we look at the top of my model and explore setting objectives and measuring performance for your hybrid team.

This article will focus on objectives.

Karen Ferris chart – Remote Report

Garbage in, garbage out

You probably have heard of the term “garbage in garbage out” (GIGO), which originated from computer science. It meant that bad input data produce bad output data.

It’s about time you considered GIGO as a guide when you consider how to set objectives for your hybrid team.

Bad objectives will only lead to bad outcomes.

There is plenty of guidance out there. Just Google “setting objectives for your hybrid team” or “setting goals for your hybrid team.”

Unfortunately, most of that so-called guidance is regurgitated common sense that would apply to any leader setting goals and objectives for their team.

This is what you will find:

  • Objectives should be clear.
  • Objectives should be SMART.
  • Objectives should be documented.
  • Objectives should be agreed.

Duh! Yes, they should, but hasn’t all the leadership material formulated over decades made these statements a given?

SMART goals were developed in 1981. We have had three decades to practice.

You need to know what specifically needs to be done with increased emphasis or done differently when setting goals and objectives for your hybrid team.

Goal or objective?

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we are on the same page.

The terms “goal” and “objective” are used interchangeably, yet they are distinctly different. The goal is the outcome you want to achieve, while the objective is the specific actions and measurable steps that you need to take to achieve the goal.

They different but not inseparable. Goals without clear objectives will not be achieved and objectives without goals are pointless.

Regardless of where you are located, you should know where you are headed.

Why do I make this point?

It is an imperative that you set a goal for the team and that it is aligned with organizational goals.

This provides the entire team, regardless of location, a shared purpose and direction.

You can then assign team and individual objectives to make progress toward the achievement of the goal.

Team and individual objectives toward a common goal provide collective motivation and determination to achieve the desired outcomes.

Motivation

The objectives you set should motivate both your team as a whole and the members of your team. This needs to be emphasized as some employees working remotely may find it harder to motivate themselves.

Research cited in Harvard Business Review found that employees who worked remotely were less motivated, and those that had no choice about where they worked were the least motivated of all.

The objectives you set should inspire and spur action.

Employee motivation can be increased by when you set learning objectives.

Instead of setting performance objectives, such as “Run three town-hall meetings to reach over 700 of our employees,” make it into a learning objective by adding in some discovery, problem solving and innovation.

Keep it open-ended by saying, “Find a way to reach over 700 of our employees in the next quarter.”

This gives your employees autonomy to find the best way to achieve the desired outcome themselves.

Clarification

I said upfront that setting clear objectives should be a given and I still stand by that.

The need to clarify an objective is amplified when your employee is working remotely.

You have to ensure that you and your employee are absolutely clear about what is expected.

What is it they are to deliver? When is it needed? What budget do they have? How often are you going to have a check-in?

Have your employee play back to you their understanding of the expectations so that you have no doubt that they are clear.

Remote workers can’t just pop into your office to check their understanding.

Clarification should take place on a regular basis. Keep checking in so you know that your employee’s grasp on what is required has not wavered.

When you and your team are physically co-located, it can be easier through auditory and visual means to sense when an objective has been misunderstood or the direction has deviated and take remedial action.

Comfort zone

You should make sure that your employees are comfortable with the objectives that they are to achieve.

Again, this is easier when you are physically face to face with an employee. There can be both verbal language and body language that signal that your employee has concerns. These can be harder to detect when meeting virtually.

Keep asking the question, “Are you OK with this?” until you are absolutely sure that they are.

Assure your employees that it is OK to step outside their comfort zone because that is where they grow and develop. Each time they step outside their comfort zone, their comfort zone gets bigger.

Let your employees know that in addition to the regular check-in, you are available when needed. Your role is to provide support and help remove obstacles.

This is important for remote workers, because they can’t see if you are at your desk or if your door is open.

Let them know how best to reach out to you.

Proximity bias

One of the biases that may arise when managing remote workers is called proximity bias. This is when a manager puts a higher value on the work being carried out by someone they can physically see doing the work over that being carried out by someone they can’t observe.

As a leader, you should ensure that your objectives provide a level playing field so that you can compare performance regardless of an employee’s location.

Visibility

When physically co-located, it can be easier to determine the objectives a teammate has been given and how they relate to the overall goals for the team. This is achieved through regular informal conversations.

Remote employees have far less or even zero visibility of the team’s objectives.

You can overcome this by using an online platform that allows every team member to access their own goals and keep track of their progress toward achieving them

You can then make team goals, associated objectives and the team members working toward them visible to all team members.

This allows everyone to see how their co-workers are contributing to the achievement of team goals. It also can show objectives that have been completed and progress toward those that our outstanding.

This degree of transparency helps foster trust.

Performance

Objectives are only useful if performance toward achievement of them is being evaluated.

The approach to measuring performance is probably one of the biggest mindset shifts leaders of hybrid teams will have to make.

I will explore this in my next article.

Karen Ferris is an organizational change-management consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. Her opinions are her own.

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