By Brian McKay
The surest sign a company will move to myopia is in having exclusive offices for the chief executives. A company that aims at continual disruptive practices will avoid this travesty altogether. The separation of executives from the company’s employees does not foster knowledge of company operations and needs.
Stories abound of executives that consciously avoid regular employees and lose touch with the inner workings of the company. zenruption has frequently commented that the number one destroyer of companies is hubris. Nothing speaks hubris more than executive offices. In fact, the more successful the company becomes and the more people it employs, the more its executives need to be connecting with employees.
It is a well-known fact that companies that outperform over the long term have CEO’s that encourage interaction and behave with a sense of humility. Is it any wonder that before the total implosion of Lehman Brothers, Dick Fuld (their CEO) was notorious for arriving in his limo, walking straight to his private elevator and avoiding other employees of the firm? Yep, being an asshole is a corporate death knell.
If executives have a private anything, communication is stifled. A private restroom is a no-no. If you can’t pee with the rest of your employees, you are surely detached.
Open door policies need to be actual open door policies and not propaganda. Visits to off-site operations need to include the message that everyone be just as they are during a normal work day. An executive shouldn’t be a rock star and the parking lot needn’t be repaved for their visit. If employees wear suits in the office when you show up but the dress code allows shorts, there is a serious problem.
The lack of an executive office extends to being able to do the job. Sure your busy and have a company to run but an hour or two experiencing how your customers are served and how the job is done will provide far more insight than looking at the income statement. These are things an executive must know about the company and continue to learn. Initiatives without proper knowledge will be a disaster.
Hiring executives should be focused around the ability to connect with all employees. If one of my fellow MBA’s indicates a desire to make it into the executive office, don’t hire that person. Hewlett Packard has frequently been cited as a great company that became a disaster as each successive CEO brought in their young executive vice presidents that walked around changing everything with no knowledge of the company’s operations.
Another example of dismal performance coming from the executive office is the amount of companies nearly destroyed by former GE executives. They have come in with what worked at GE under Jack Welch while sitting in the executive office and having no clue how the company actually operates. Just ask Albertsons employees how Larry Johnston worked out. He didn’t.
Tesla has innovated and pulled off things that other companies could never accomplish. The company does not have its executives removed from the day to day operations and in fact takes great pains to keep executives in contact with other employees. The interaction of executives and employees has been critical to the success of the company. There is no doubt that Tesla will meet its goals with the Model 3, when one takes into account such a culture of interaction.
Executive offices are passé. The luxuries of the archaic behemoths. Nimble and disruptive companies create spaces that foster communication and innovation. Executives are encouraged to be part of the team and not removed from it. Reserved parking spots don’t exist. Most importantly, the mistake of assuming self-importance is discouraged.
Encourage interaction at all levels in your disruptive company. Never aspire to have executive offices.
Go zenrupt some business.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his MBA from Boise State University. He believes strongly in small nimble organizations where the executives are close to other employees. Brian swears that if zenruption ever gets big, he won’t have a fancy office but there will be a beer fridge.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license