I used to work for a guy who was the Chief HR Officer for one of the largest professional services firms in the world – an organization that now has more than 180,000 people across the globe. I was under his wings for close to three years and did everything from manage his projects to carry his bags. I didn’t necessarily learn everything about being an HR professional from him, but I learned the majority of what I know today about being a leader. When I was a year into my assignment with him, he was asked to move his entire team to a new building to make room for some other group that clearly had more clout. It was a newer building and it was configured with an open seating plan. The offices were internal, and the cubes encircled the perimeter along the windows. Despite his stature, his title, his pay-grade, and his time-served, he elected to sit in a cube – not an office – with the likes of lowly old me. And that made an impression on me (and a lot of people) that lasts to this day.
What the hell is up with the “executive office suite” anyway? How many companies even still have those? I am actually well aware of a number – been in them recently – that obnoxiously still segregate their c-suite from the “commoners.” And I’m not sure I can think of one single thing that is more inane! What? You’re better than I am? You’re better than all those employees who in essence pay your salary? You preach ‘collaboration’ and ‘team work’ and ‘open door communications.’ Yet you hide in your corner behind that beast of an executive admin guarding your doors. The only time we see you is if we’re standing at the urinals together and god knows how awkward that is…that’s just not a good time to get to know you. And while we’re at it, your office is the size of the local YMCA. What the hell are you doing in there?
I get it. “You’ve earned it.” Blah blah blah. It’s so old school. It’s stodgy. It’s presumptuous. It’s ostentatious. It’s condescending. It’s reclusive. It’s exclusive. It says so much about what’s wrong with corporate America and yet you’re still doing it. Your office does not impress me. It probably doesn’t impress much of anyone anymore. Do something that’s really impressive and board that baby up. Go grab an office that’s the same size as the ones you make your middle managers inhabit. Take one that’s smack dab in the middle of the real world and start mixing with the masses. If you could do one thing to gain instant credibility, respect, admiration, and an overwhelming inclination to follow you, this might just be it.