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Victorio Milian, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

As a leader, it can be good to have things that reflect one’s position in an organization. Obtaining a certain status brings with it certain perks. But is more stuff always better for organizational leaders?

As a consultant, I wear many hats when working for clients. With those responsibilities, I can wield a fair amount of influence or power in order to support them in their work. And that allows me certain privileges. For example, a short while ago I had my own office at a client’s site. My assistant had one as well, separate from mine. I never questioned it. Partly it was due to the organization. All senior administrators had their own offices; it was just how they did things. Also, I felt it was necessary to have one. What if I needed to have confidential conversations? Where would I keep critical documents? Lastly, since space was at a premium, I didn’t think that I could move, even if I wanted to. These questions and considerations kept me in an office of my own.

Recently I reconsidered my position. I began to notice that a colleague was struggling. An employee of my client’s, she rose through the ranks and now found herself leading a multi-department team covering several operational areas. Her struggle originated (partly) in the fact that she lacked an office. It wasn’t necessary for her old role but now she needed a space.

Her need for a better space coincided with a feeling that I was having about the work I was doing for this client. While I was their acting HR Director, the organization was so small that I didn’t need to stand apart from the staff, hierarchy-wise. If I was to be more effective in my role, I had to step out of my office more and be closer to the employee population.

It took awhile to work out the details. For one, without an office, what would I use (in terms of a computer) in order to accomplish certain tasks? How would I have sensitive conversations with staff? What space would serve as a home base?

In the end, I did two main things:

  1. I got a laptop. Once purchased and configured by the IT department, This allowed me to be more mobile. Instead of having staff make appointments to meet me in my (physical) office, I could bring my (virtual) one to them.
  2. I moved in with my assistant. Fortunately, the space was large enough! That said, what developed from us sitting together is that tasks were being done faster and with fewer mistakes. Rather than having to track me, my assistant could talk to me right then and there.

What helped me finally give it up was working with the new supervisor to transition into the space. The increased traffic in and out of her office, combined with her increased satisfaction in having her own space, convinced me that the decision I made was the right one.

We often hear words such as “disruptive” and “innovative” as it relates to workforce trends. And yet, many organizations have value systems that emphasize the attainment of status symbols, regardless of whether or not they enhance your ability to actually do your job. Being able to see clearly if the power leaders wield is actually being used effectively requires a number of things:

  • The ability to critically assess the value of the tools, position, and power one has, and whether it truly helps you perform in the role. In my example, having an office, while nice, wasn’t an effective function in my role. It took a colleague in need to help me realize that.
  • The ability to be adapt. For my role with this client, being flexible to the needs of the various organizational members (in the form of having a lightweight yet powerful laptop) enabled me to be more effective in my role.
  • Communication and partnership. None of the decisions made concerning the changes I described were done on my own. It involved senior leaders, IT, Finance, and other partners. It also required that I communicate more with other staff so that they understood the transition and how it would benefit them.

It’s still a work in progress, yet I’m confident that revamping my role was the right step. In giving away unnecessary stuff, you gain the ability to increase your effectiveness.

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