Congratulations! Your years of hard work and accomplishments have been rewarded. You’ve been promoted to the C suite. A lavish corner office awaits.

Well, not so fast.

Do you want to create a culture of engagement, collaboration, and open communication? Do you want to hear everyone’s best ideas, nip problems in the bud, and create a powerful team spirit?

Then drop the corner office.

The world of work is changing. Sure, the Intelligence Age demands hard skills and technological understanding. But soft skills like emotional intelligence, people management, and creativity are becoming even more important (World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs).

Your success as leader will depend upon your technical skills plus your soft skills – namely, your personal qualities and social ability assets.  By working alongside everyone else, you’ll exercise these soft skills and become a far more effective executive than if you ensconce yourself in a private office and rely on emails and weekly meetings to keep tabs of everything and everyone.

It may be premature to say that the traditional office environment is going the way of the buggy whip, but it’s clear that the open office concept has become very common.  Popularized by Apple, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley firms, the open office concept is used in some form in about 70% of office spaces in the U.S., according to the International Facility Management Association.

Perhaps the most prominent example of an open office space is Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA, which houses over 2,800 workers in a single room. Even CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits out in the open at a simple white desk – just like everybody else. The workplace is designed to foster transparency, collaboration, and speed.

As a leader of a large team, the benefits of an open office space are many:

  • You will be aware of what is happening in real time and you will be able to ask questions, engage others at a moment’s notice, and assist in developing solutions.
  • You will be able to cut through the hierarchy and communicate directly with people involved in an issue, rather than calling a manager into your office and working through intermediaries.
  • By interacting with a broader range of people, you’ll hear everyone’s best ideas unfiltered, which is key to making informed decisions and developing the best possible strategies.
  • You’ll create a more engaged and collaborative culture. By eliminating office barriers and working alongside everyone else, employees will feel more connected to the team and its mission.
  • You will serve as an example to employees who will see first-hand how you work and make decisions.

Admittedly, not everyone is a fan of open offices and there is some research which suggests open offices have drawbacks. However, as a C-suite leader, getting out on the floor and working directly with people every day on real issues should be a top priority.

The more you know what your employees are thinking and the more they know about your business priorities and work style, the more successful you will be as a leader.


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