Working side by side enhances engagement, not estrangement

Great books get dog-eared!  

Pardon its dog-eared appearance but that's the way it goes for a book which has traveled hundreds of miles, had coffee spilled on it, and been underlined more times than we can count.

Why is it a great business book for a high aspiring business and organization?   Friedman takes you behind the scenes, out into the open office, meeting spaces and into the board room with his applied research studying what makes a great place to work and why.  He tackles head on aspects of how to shift mindsets regarding cultivating and sustaining trusting, engaging and ultimately high performing workplaces focused often times on shared purpose and values.

Page 116-117 Markups - The Best Place to Work

Friedman organizes his book into three parts. Part one focuses on creating an extraordinary workplace experience. The middle part shares best practices on motivating excellence which then leads into final part, attracting and retaining top performers. Then he culminates in a short final chapter on the three keys to creating the extraordinary workplace.  

To keep things tangible I offer a personal story how the chapter in the middle section, Motivating Excellence connected with me.

The power of pairs and working side by side

When I attended graduate school for architecture, one of the primary ways architectures students learn is in the design studio, and from our instructors. Architecture students work alone and sometimes in small groups around big work tables for our design projects supporting sketching, building models, working on our laptops.  Professors come around and visit the individuals or small groups for a while reviewing design progress and any challenges being faced that day needing attention.

One time, one of my professors came to my table and always spoke to me across while looking at my work upside down and not really engaging my work and my ideas.  With this intentional separation, non verbally, he never really engaged with me one to one and my work showed and my respect for him waned.  It's unclear why he worked with me this way.  You could substitute a manager or coworker for him in virtually any office today with similar results.

Another professor in a later semester took a different approach. He always made a point to work next to me on my side of my table, colored pencils and pens in hand and we worked together developing my designs, building a memory still powerful today showing me how to teach and more importantly engage with others.  Is this style closer to your workstyle approach? It's worth thinking about isn't it?

This story remains valuable today as Ron Friedman writes about such things in his book and many more. In the section of "How to Turn a Group of Strangers into a Community", in the first part of his book, he talks about the power of shared activities during and after work, which in turn help build lasting relationships, greater engagement and workplace inter-connectivity.  

My two professors and there differing work styles around shared activities, showed me the power and engagement of working side by side by its presence and sadly its absence. Friedman goes into great detail about what lies behind why and how shifting how you work, manage and how you collaborate can make a difference.  

Our screens and meeting spaces afford us the capability to shift our mindsets about how we use our workspace. Many furniture manufacturers produce furniture and work-settings which support this kind of collaborative work. Collaborative screen and camera technology continues to evolve as well at lighting speed.  Do your offices, meeting spaces and workstations support such side by side collaborative work and sharing work activity like this? Why or why not?  

What if they did? What could or would change in your cultural and work dynamics? The power of Ron Friedman's book lies in the results of thinking differently like this.

Summing Up

Friedman sprinkles his book with many similar moments with immediately applicable concepts and strategies you may find easy to try with coworkers, clients and partners who work with you.  They all add up to helping you cultivate a best place to work which will help you and your business thrive while building a stronger more resilient work community.  

If you would like to talk further about how simple yet powerful ideas like this can transform your organization and help you succeed or have questions, feel free to contact us to learn more.