Something caught my eye several weeks ago! I was thumbing through google.com/finance and an October 26, 2016 Fortune.com article came across my iPhone entitled: “Forget the corner office. Some CEOs are discovering they get more from their troops when they have no office.”
The article listed several CEOs who have no corner office, among them HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. That was of even more interest to me since Simon Associates is a HubSpot partner and I can personally attest to how smart these guys are. Why are we a HubSpot partner? That’s a story for another day but you can certainly go to our blogs and read about why we believe in inbound marketing. And why we are a HubSpot partner.
Not having a corner office enables you to hang out, observe and learn
But back to the “no corner office” concept. The Forbes article discusses the benefits of hanging out — specifically, the benefits of floating around the office…overhearing conversation. Is this a radically new concept? Of course not! Years ago, Tom Peters talked about “managing by walking about.” And I am sure there have been many books written on the value or lack thereof of confining the senior executive to an office.
At Simon Associates, we position ourselves as corporate anthropologists, among other things. As a matter of fact, our CEO (my partner and most importantly, my wife) talks about the value of being your own corporate anthropologist. And in July 2016, she has a book coming out which discusses the value of being out and about.
Nothing beats firsthand knowledge of what’s really going on in your company
We always talk having about using your eyes and ears to learn more about your clients, customers and for that matter, your employees. In other words, don’t outsource your eyes to anyone else. It is my belief that you can read all the reports from your staff or third parties but the ability to interpret, to move forward, to create, is based upon your own ability to touch…to see.
The nuances are quite different when you have (or see and hear) firsthand knowledge of what is going on. That’s because this gives you the innate ability to accurately access. Think about your actual experiences. Would I interpret something differently if I didn’t see it firsthand? Would I assign different levels of priorities if I really understood what was necessary? Would my decisions be more precise?
When I served as the CEO of a middle market company, I would ask questions of our field folks. Based upon reports and questions asked, I then sorted events, conditions and priorities, and created scenarios. Then I would go into the field and observe people, and what I learned was sometimes very different than when we got from our folks.
I am sure you have had similar experiences. Scenarios constructed with observations from your own eyes and ears were often different from your previous assumptions. That’s because everyone comes to the table with a different lens. And everyone processes differently. Sitting in meetings, I learned to observe and ask questions. And very often, I would learn new things about our clients or potential clients because I process differently and have a very different perspective.
Open your eyes and ears — you’ll be amazed at what you can learn
So isn’t this the parallel to working in an office without an assigned desk? With that said, if you are thinking about giving up your desk or at least putting it away part-time, I would suggest you think about the following:
- Get away, observe and listen. That’s right, listen. Even make a list. You’ll be surprised that some of the things you write down are very different than what you might have imagined. To put it another way, tell your relationship managers when they meet with clients: “Don’t sell. Listen!” They might be astonished at all the things they learn. And perhaps that will help you build a significant business.
- Go sit on the phone in your call centers, especially if you deal with or are responsible for new product and service offerings. In my wife’s upcoming book, she talks about a CEO who listened in on calls coming in. By doing this, he learned that his customers had a lot of unfulfilled needs which no one was addressing. Catering to those needs led to a new, profitable division of his company.
- Your people probably know more than you think. Go ask them what they think. (This is easier to do outside your office.) Your listening will lead to them being proactive.
Effective CEOs are good listeners, especially out of the office
Listening works best in neutral environments. Getting out of your office really helps create this. Just remember: You don’t necessarily have to give up your office but you do have to get out of it!