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This week marked our 6 th  Women in BioPharma Leadership event where we brought together a group of senior leaders to discuss the hot topic of leadership in a hybrid world and had the pleasure of hearing some insightful top tips on how to make this work from Sky’s eminent Group Director of Operations, Bella Vuillermoz.


I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that, despite the pressing nature of hybrid working, 89% of organisations haven’t yet communicated their vision for hybrid work. Identifying a vision can be tough at the best of times – but add in the complexity of teams facing the ‘same storm from a different boat’ and it’s clear that a ‘one size fits all’ solution probably doesn’t exist.

Organisations are going to have to get comfortable applying a test and learn approach to hybrid working, being open to the fact that it won’t be perfect first time around, but we can still take meaningful steps towards getting it right. Consolidating the fascinating insights shared by Bella and the leaders that attended our event, these meaningful steps can be pulled into 3 core focus areas:


Communication. Connection. Purpose-led absence.


Let’s break each one down for you.


Communication


At the heart of great leadership is the ability to effectively communicate with our people. In the hybrid working environment, the challenge is not going to be about how effectively we communicate, but instead about how meaningful our communications are.


Active listening alone won’t quite cut it anymore – we need to make sure that, as leaders, we truly listen to understand, and give meaningful direction as a result. Next time you interact with your team, pay attention to the different subgroups and lead with empathy when you engage.


Acknowledge that, when it comes to hybrid, what works for a young adult in a flat 6 share who spends 90% of the day in their bedroom is unlikely to be the same as a working parent who still needs to be able to do the school run.

And finally, don’t just skim above the surface when you engage. Leading with empathy means sometimes asking the same question twice for a better chance of hearing the real answer.


Connection


The last 14 months have been peppered with conversations about how to avoid zoom fatigue, re-create water cooler moments and maintain open dialogue. But as we emerge from back-to-back meetings and find ourselves reintroducing commuting time into our daily lives, how can we remain productive whilst meaningfully connecting with our people?


The simple answer is with JOMO – The Joy of Missing Out (thank you to Claire F for that one). The idea being that, by consciously choosing when we connect and engage, instead of being minimally present for everyone and everything all of the time, we can ensure that each connection we actually have with our teams is a meaningful one.

A moment where they feel we’ve added real value and we, as leaders, come away knowing we have given our best selves. Key to hybrid working will be to role-model the behaviour we expect from our teams.


Show them HOW to not attend meetings rather than just keep telling them. By consciously deciding not to take part in every single activity and being open about why this is, we can set the precedent for our teams to follow suite.

And for those small, yet powerful human connections we’re all missing like the chats over coffee or the walks to the sandwich shops – there are ways to recreate these in a hybrid world ensuring that face to face connections aren’t the only ones we engage with.


Put ‘coffee chats’ in the diary, make your 1-to-1s walking meetings and critically, make sure you continue to involve both those working at home as well as in the office to maintain real, purposeful equity in our relationships.


Purpose-led absence


One topic that was discussed a lot at our event was the need to give ourselves time and space to think and focus on our own learning or personal development. The struggle everyone seems to be coming up against is how to do this without creating a ‘negative gap’ in our diaries. Blocking out an afternoon is all good and well, but when it comes down to it, we struggle to commit that time, especially when in the office.


The solution proposed is to give purpose to our diary holds. Instead of enforcing ‘no meeting Wednesday’, implement a productive alternative like ‘Regroup Thursday’ or ‘Find your Flow Friday’ so that everyone in your team is empowered to take that time and make use of it in a purposeful way.


And of course, key to the success of any initiative, is role-modelling from the top down; because, let’s face it, if leaders aren’t leading by example and role-modelling expected behaviours, it’s far less likely that our teams will feel empowered to do the same.


So, whilst the hybrid destination might be slightly hazy, we can still take meaningful steps towards a successful hybrid working environment for us as well as our teams.

And on that note, we’ll leave you with one final piece of advice that Bella Vuillermoz shared and got our brains whirring:


The office should no longer be seen as a destination, but instead as a tool in your productivity toolkit, to be used when necessary, not as a daily given.
 
The Women in Biopharma Leadership network was founded in 2018 by Cormis and Links Life Sciences, with the specific purpose of bringing together the voices of like-minded senior women in the Pharma and BioTech industries.
To find out about our future events or connect with the WBL network, please head to our LinkedIn group.

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