CWS 3.0: June 20, 2012


Strategy: Critical Skills for Managers of Hybrid Teams

Contemporary managers can’t rely on book smarts; they need broader skills to lead mixed teams comprised of regular employees and contingent talent.

“Scripted theater is out,” says Dr. Susan Bernstein, CEO of Work from Within. “Managers need improvisational skills to supervise teams of revolving workers with disparate motivations and needs.”

Here are five critical competencies these managers need to succeed.

No. 1: Emotional Intelligence (EI). Managers have to be Zen masters to drive productivity in demanding environments by harnessing workers’ minds and spirits. EI helps them recognize both the overt and subtle emotional needs of individuals and teams and tailor their response. Sub-skills include active listening, empathy, communications and problem resolution.

“You won’t get the best from contractors if you’re insensitive to their feelings,” says Bernstein. “Simply excluding them from team meetings or failing to emphasize their role and importance can make them feel and act like outsiders instead of valuable contributors.”

No. 2: Change Management. Shepherding a team through change requires know-how and diplomacy especially when project timelines and priorities must shift to accommodate vacillating stakeholder requirements and the availability of specialized contractors.

“Managers need change management competencies to handle an environment where the staff is in a constant state of flux,” advised Kate Zabriskie, owner of Business Training Works.

No. 3: Unification. Workforce diversity can provide incredible benefits such as improved morale, outside-the-box thinking, increased teamwork and an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, but managers must be skillful puzzle masters to assemble the assorted pieces into a unified picture. Unifiers need the ability to assess each worker’s talents and assets, resolve conflict and seamlessly assimilate new members into a single unit while capitalizing on individual talents.

No. 4: Sales. Selling isn’t just for sales people. Managers have to be chief motivators to garner support for the company’s flexible staffing model and engage new contingent workers from the outset of an assignment. Visualization, persuasion and communications skills are needed to craft and convey an inspiring and cohesive vision of the project that also emphasizes the importance of each person’s role.

No. 5: Coaching. Performance appraisals that review prior history are quickly becoming passé. Contingent workers need real-time signals and constructive feedback to round the bases and cross home plate without making mistakes.

“Providing feedback six months after the fact is too late,” says Bernstein. “Managers have to coach to succeed in a business world that’s moving faster and faster all the time.”

Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer in Southern California who has 20 years’ experience in the staffing industry. She can be reached at


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5 Tool Group

Jay Oza06/22/2012 01:06 pm

This is a good post.

I think you nailed it that teaming is becoming a "must have" skill for success today. Amy Edmondson had a very good article in HBR titled "Teamwork on the Fly" which goes into what have posted in more detail.

This sounds easy, but it is tough and need to be taught in schools since it is not just about being in a team, but teaming, which is little different in that you have to be part of a pick-up basketball game and figure things out quickly on who is good on offense, defense, rebounding, etc.

Santa Clara University

Terri Griffith06/22/2012 12:57 pm

Thank you for this list. I'll admit it resonated with me as it somewhat parallels the skills I offer in my book, The Plugged-In Manager. The sales component goes beyond what I present and I think you're spot on. The only dimension I'd add is at least a high-level understanding of the technology tools we use in our communication, collaboration, and work overall. I don't think managers have to be experts, but they need to understand their options and know where to find tech knowledge if they don't have it.

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