You’ve made it or are on the way. You have that promotion to a supervisor/manager or maybe you’ve earned an executive position. With your new position you have that corner larger cubicle or private office. Is that a good work environment for you? Be careful! You need to carve out time to spend in the “arena”.
As a manager or executive, you need your private space for conversations, small meetings and to “get the work done”. It’s very easy to isolate yourself from your co-workers (except for meetings), and to view the “open door policy” as a distraction. Instead, embrace “working in the arena”.
What is the Arena?
In a lot of high tech companies, especially when using millennials, a central “pit” is set up where most of the work gets done. You’ve probably seen pictures of these (or in movies) with large linear or circular tables with no partitions (or very low ones) and people feverishly working to get their jobs done, often with open conversation.
To some of us, we think “How can they get it done?” It’s loud, distracting, and there is constant banter and interruptions within the environment!”
I invite you to try it out. As CIO of a software company, I almost always start my day sitting around a large table with another executive, developers, system analysts and project managers. I do retire to a private office at times during the day for phone conversations or other intense work efforts, but when I’m sitting around the table, I learn so much about what’s going on in the company without even being part of a conversation. You not only experience the culture of the group directly, you can help mold it. You hear small things about projects that are going well and some that aren’t, without any spin of emails or other classic communication methods. I cannot stress how important this is.
If You Are New to This... Walk Before You Run
“But how do I concentrate? How can I get any work done? What if my office isn’t set up for this?” The best way to do this is take small steps and try it out. For example, our Atlanta office is much larger with a larger set of roles, including executives, marketing, sales, help desk, analysts, project managers, developers and interns. Because many are on the phone, physical separation is necessary a lot of the time. But we do have a large conference room, and often subgroups of people will work together “around the table”. This happens especially when some of our St. Louis people visit regularly. It’s important that this is “regular” work time, not a scheduled meeting. You have your work, and others do theirs, but you’ll find the banter around the table to be incredibly valuable. We do this with Executives all the way down to interns.
If you are a manager, supervisor or executive, try “working in the arena” a few times and be open to it. It might be a little challenging at first, but I promise it will be worth the effort.