What’s the best work situation you’ve ever had and why was it so? Was it working for yourself, a start-up, or a big corporation? I got a chance to ask myself that question again Saturday night when a number of us who worked together 20+ years ago at ABC Sports got together. Most of us hadn’t seen one another in at least a decade but like most reunions of closely knit groups, it felt as if we’d just spoken last week.
Let me explain why this was the best work situation I’ve ever been in and offer some suggestions how you might try to replicate it wherever you are. What’s interesting to me is that what I’m going to say was echoed by every single one of us in the room in terms of what we experienced and how we felt. None of us are kids any more and yet we all agreed this was the best period of time we ever spent over our professional lives.
- The boss was very much in charge. That seems like a prescription for heavy-handed disaster, but in this case it means he gave us all clear, firm direction.
- The boss allowed us to figure out how to accomplish the goals. He was smart enough to recognize that many roads travel to the same place and we needed to take those which we could navigate effectively.
- There were no staff meetings or other “process” items wasting our time. Oh sure, once a quarter or so we’d get together to go over stuff but the emphasis was on results, not process.
- There was the equivalent of a very productive staff meeting every morning. Because of the next point, the senior staff would end up in someone’s office every morning an hour before work officially began going over what we were doing, opportunities for action, rumors, and anything else. It was the equivalent of a 5 hour weekly meeting and many times more productive.
- The executive team liked one another as people and respected one another as professionals. We socialized outside of work and some of the team I still count among my closest friends.
- Finally, the boss cleared away all the corporate stuff to allow us to do our collective thing. He fought for budgets, he made sure we were paid well, he took the heat when something didn’t go as planned. Like a good parent, he wasn’t afraid to let us know when we’d screwed up (BOY did he let us know) but we never doubted that he supported us and we never felt like we’d get fired at any minute.
That’s the prescription if you’re the one building the work environment. Assemble a great team, give them clear direction, provide resources, and get out of the way while staying connected. It’s 20 years later now and I think most of this team would go back to work together in a minute if the opportunity arose. Many of us agreed we didn’t realize at the time how special an environment we had but we sure do now.
What do you think? Ever been in this sort of work environment? Is this about what you had?