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Leaders Letter 109 – In-Office Operators: Are You Being Blinded By In-person Performance?

Dear Leaders, this week I want to introduce you to something that is likely bubbling under the surface of businesses who have returned to the office (be it part or full time).

Fair Hybrid? The return to the office has been playing out for a year in some countries and a few weeks in others. Hybrid work is now mostly the default choice within the office-based business world. 

Everyone is doing hybrid differently, flex work (remember renaming home to ‘workplace home’ to be on the same level of importance as the (workplace) office is going to reframe the negative conditioning) locations are where most have landed. 

Many adopt the popular 3:2, 3 in the office 2 at-home model. So the 3 days of in-person in-office time is being seen as more important people time. 

Many leaders are suggesting in person and in-office work is helping address issues. With hints of better connections and more collaboration. 

Many suggest performance has improved. Is this a temporary peak?
Or a trend that will continue? 

A Celebratory Micro-Moment? Should the leaders be celebrating this micro moment just yet? Or should we consider behaviour shifts, or, behaviour resets? 

A Quick Consideration: In-person is often a performance, several treating an office like a stage or a Shakespeare production? Remember the common thread in classic literature was the trusted confidant or friend… was actually the manipulative middle person, controlling situations and skillfully outwitting the protagonist or the leader who ultimately suffers a downfall? 

Performing: The office is often multiple performances a day, from 1:2:1 meetings, to cross-functional meetings, to team standups all performing for different audiences. 

The office is a series of politically-charged performances and games many have worked out in the return to the offices, you have to put on the work game face on again and perform to get ahead or put a brave face on to get your job done while navigating others doing this.

Is It A Win, A Loss Or A Draw? While ‘leadership’ reports returning to the office have been positive, are you seeing the return of the savvy in-office operator? 

Have we seen those who know how to work in-person system gaming the system in their favour? 

Have you seen the return of the savvy middle manager who knows how to answer questions better face to face?
Have we seen the reappearance of the manager (not leader) who can appear to police the in-person physical office more effective, where hierarchy and structure are almost fully recognised? Whereas online work removes some of this. 

Should this political intelligence be celebrated?
Or should this be something you should keep a closer eye on and understand from the signal not the noise of the performances.
Time to have a stance and step up to investigate. 

Leader Lead! Is this something to be concerned about as a leader? 

Ponder: 

  • Have you seen individual performance and feedback actually change apart on the surface level? 
  • Has the performance increased over a prolonged period of time? 
  • Has the culture improved? 
  • Have you seen signals of your team members leaving and not reporting these characteristics in exit interviews and feedback sessions? 

These questions have to be answered by you. Ultimately coming down to trust and what environment you want and how you become an effective leader by creating a performance-driven people culture.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard 

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