My office has gone through a lot of iterations. First, everyone sat in an open space. But when a daily queue began forming at my desk, the people around me got sick of it because there were always people standing around waiting to chat and distracting them from their work.
So I got an office. My lines quit bugging people, but then a similar thing happened to another leader in the company. Then, some managers needed to have more semiprivate conversations, and having an office became a status issue.
None of this fostered the culture we set out to create. As a manager, it's my job to promote a positive working environment.
Remember when you were a kid in school and the teacher would leave the room and students would lose control? You're hopefully working with adults today, but the same principle applies. When there's no one there to engage and provide those little coaching moments, a big part of the culture is lost.
We're building a new office space now with a totally different structure. Giant open work areas are ineffective, but neighborhoods, as I call them, are the answer to keeping teams together. If you want to be an effective and valuable manager, being among your team members can help you get there by offering a few key benefits:
1. You can be the eyes and ears. The first and most obvious benefit is that you see and hear what people are doing. Hearing how people talk to and interact with one another is invaluable. You don't need to babysit your staff, but this really gives you a chance to understand where people are coming from and what things look like from their varying perspectives. It keeps you in the know, and that understanding will ultimately boost morale.
2. You make yourself available. My assistant works 20 feet away, but two doors stand between us. Occasionally, she'll walk over to ask something instead of just messaging me. That kind of access is important. If you're physically removed from your team, there's less availability to take 10 seconds to answer a question.
3. You can reach several people with one talk. Oh, the benefits of having a conversation with one person that three people can hear. Your job is ultimately to coach and motivate. It's really effective to talk about performance and your product when multiple people listen in. There's a time and a place for private conversations, but when it comes to conversations that could apply to a lot of people, it's cool to be able to chat in the open.
4. You improve the vibe. I'm a pretty upbeat and transparent guy, and I like the idea of being able to boost people's moods. When you work with great people, you want to be around them and lift them up. People who feel valued are the most productive and happy.
Whatever your work situation is like, work alongside your team. It's the best way to maintain a positive and effective office culture.
Tony Delmercado is the chief operating officer at Hawke Media, a passionately curious entrepreneur, and an all-around solid dude. He enjoys building businesses, playing golf, improving his Krav Maga and jiujitsu game, writing, studying business tax loopholes, and eating Mexican food.