When Rob Gill was asked by Nokia to move from his cosy corner office in NZ, to work in the UK team from a large open-plan corporate office, there were some important management and leadership lessons to be learned. This is Part 3 of a three part series about managing in open-plan spaces, like those you will encounter in Hastings HIVE. Have you read Part 1 & Part 2 first?
We all know about leading by example, yes? But how important can it really be? After all, staff mostly know what to do and can ask if they don't. Well, it's not directly the subject of this post, but I will say I am convinced the “do as I say, not what I do” brigade haven't understood the importance of good role models in developing better followers and future leaders.
But how is this a problem when managing in open-plan offices? Surely this is a big plus for having managers on the “shop floor”, not tucked into a corner office, emerging only to issue decrees? At my desk, surrounded in the immediate area by the large team I was managing, I certainly had every opportunity to set the tone for work ethic and timeliness.
I always liked to arrive early into work, have time to dispatch the minutiae before the real work began with plans, meetings and real outputs. Coffee taken on the run, lunch from a sandwich dispensing machine (yes, they tasted as you might expect) with bread crumbs wiped from the keyboard. It wasn’t long before everyone was following suit, and productivity improving. Everyone was working hard. Trouble was, the office was a vanilla and boring place to be. The winter outside was long and grey and the summer was short and grey. (Anyone else worked in the Peterborough UK business park?)
The work was interesting but it wasn’t much fun. After discussing this lack of social interaction with a management colleague, we started to schedule our breaks away from our desks, inviting staff (all staff) to join us. We would discuss the weather of course (a national obsession in the UK) or the state of the nation. Sport, science, business, tech stuff (we were in a tech-company after all), cars and yes, even the arts … and, more often than not, an aspect of our work or a customer’s business or business problem, that we could reflect on as an informal "think tank".
But what counted most was that we took the time to talk with our colleagues and demonstrate it was okay to take a break. Even to show that these breaks and discussions were an important part of the working day, helping us connect better with other business units and disciplines and share problems or issues.
At Hastings HIVE we have been careful to create a central meeting place in our vibrant cafe space. As Hawke's Bay architect Pierre du Toit pointed out when we reviewed the original concept, "a co-working space is not just a place of work; it can be as much about networking and socialising, with sharing of experiences as well as spaces." Designed by talented NZ designer Amy Henderson the cafe space deliberately has just the one coffee station, the one water station and the one kitchen area. A beautiful and stimulating gathering place for everyone.
We hope in time that Hastings HIVE is valued as much for the network and support groups our customers create, as for the shared workspaces it provides. And no sandwich dispensing machine ... we promise!