I get up from my desk and sneak over to the conference room hoping that no one sees me. It is the only place in the building with a window that looks out over the parking lot. Crap, his car is still there. Come on man, go home already, it's 5:45 on a Friday night. I promised my wife and kids I would join them for dinner and a movie. I walk back to my office and pull up the same spreadsheet that I have been half paying attention to for the past hour. Sure, I could leave, but what if he calls? 10 minutes later, I repeat my covert mission to the conference room. At last, he is gone. I spring back to my office, wait for the requisite five minutes, call my wife, throw my stuff into my bag and head out the door. As I am about to get in the car, feeling foolish, I glance back at the window, and I notice one of my staff members, furtively peering out the window searching the lot for my car. This is madness, I think to myself.
I start my next team meeting by saying, "Okay gang, I just want to share something with you. I am not a time keeper. I am not going to award you brownie points for being here before me or staying until after I leave. I just ask for two things; that you be accessible to me and to one another, and that you deliver the expected results". In this case, what was good for the goose, was not so for the gander. I might not have had the guts to stop the silly cat and mouse game with my boss, but I was going to break the cycle with my team.
Let me jump this story forward quite a few years to current times. Today, I can choose to drive the 15 minutes to my office, or just set my laptop up on the patio table. There is nobody who would know or care if I was at the office. For the most part, my schedule is my own as I have a boutique consultancy practice. Yet, I still drive in. I always considered myself as a hard worker, but truthfully, I now find myself working a lot more and much harder than I ever did when I was doubling as a parking lot attendant. Not because I have to, or even that I need to. Rather, I do so because I want to. I have a sense of purpose, a true desire to make a difference and to add value.
I just finished reading Dan Pink's book Drive, which I highly recommend. In it, he writes about a concept called ROWEa Results only work environment. Evidently, this term and concept were developed by the HR team of Best Buy. Oddly, a brick and mortar retailer, not some tech start up. It is a concept that is growing and doing so in all different types of businesses. In a ROWE office, there are no schedules or expectations that people be present at a certain time or remain for a particular duration. No one is sneaking a peek out of the conference room window to see if the boss has left. Rather, people are given the autonomy and shown the trust to come and go as they please. The focus is purely on the results.
It's time to question our long-held assumptions about the way we work. Almost all of us are engaged in businesses where we and our teams are required to find creative solutions to complex challenges. This is a knowledge-work economy. Autonomy, Dan Pink claims, is one of the primary ingredients needed to support motivation and engagement. In a bit of irony, the rules, expectations and general organizational mores that we put in place to ensure compliance, actually may limit productivity and results. Tell a person that they are to be in the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and those are the hours they will likely work. Tell that same person, that you aren't worried about when or if they are in the office, only that they achieve the results, and they won't limit their work to a set schedule. Rather, they will do what is needed to achieve the desired outcome.
We may not all be ready to make the leap to ROWE, but if we loosen some of our compliance-minded policies and expectations ,we will be rewarded with more motivated and driven teams. Plus, no-one will tip-toe into an empty conference room, lean against the window and peer out in hopes of seeing an empty parking space. Just think of the amount of Windex we will save.
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I serve as a thinking partner, providing my clients with the clarity, focus, and tools they need to make good people and product decisions. I help my clients tell their stories and build relationships with their customers. I enable their leaders to better connect and communicate with those whom they lead. Thanks for reading -- Elliot Begoun
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